Every year, the City of Lowell and thousands of communities across the country have the very difficult task of performing a Point in Time count of all of the homeless men, women and children in any given community. We are able to guage how many adults and dependents there are in the community, as they are typically serviced through sheltering and outreach programs.
You see, these numbers are so very important for two main reasons:
1.) The data drives the funding allocation
2.) The data drives the short and long term planning processes around programmatic and housing development.
The one population that we, as a city, have yet to get an accurate count on – is our homeless youth population. While the cities of Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill have individual adult shelters (serving those 18 and up), there are ZERO emergency sheltering programs for our homeless youth. The reasons for their homelessness vary: parents can no longer afford to take care of them, behavioral/mental health issues, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and so on.
As a regional initiative, is this an area of programming we can provide? Picture this…a boarding school type program for homeless youth. The kids live in dorm style housing, staffed with Resident Advisors from our local colleges. Not only are the RA’s providing supervision, boarding students are afforded the opportunity of mentoring from their college age Resident Advisor’s. Kids go to high school right in their own community with an incentive for college advancement.
The Merrimack Valley is positioned well for this type of endeavor, given the caliber and sheer number of community colleges, State Universities and private colleges.
The results? — Kids who might have otherwise have become homeless, dropped out of school and likely set out on a path that leads to a lifetime of bleak poverty are INSTEAD - kept in school, provided with the mental health care to unwrap all of the family issues that got them to that place and along the way they become educated, contributors to our communities.
Well, here’s the article from www.change.org that got me thinking on this issue.