Homeless Youth, PIT Counts & Breaking the Cycle of a Youth Social Service System that Just Doesn’t Work

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.

How to Count Homeless Youthby Josie Raymond October 23, 2010 08:09 AM When it comes to being counted, homeless youth are often the “slipperiest” of that slippery group of people known as “the homeless.” Continue reading

Hollywood on Board with Hiring Those That are Least Employable?

Another great article over at www.change.org

The Bold & the Beautiful to Feature Homelessness & Povertyby Becky Blanton October 27, 2010 Does Hollywood imitate life? Or does life imitate Hollywood? For the most watched television soap opera in the world (with 26 million+ viewers), the answer is, both.

Beginning tomorrow, Oct. 28, The Bold & the Beautiful will begin airing episodes featuring real homeless people. According to TV GuideB&B producers went down to LA’s Skid Row and hired 25 homeless people for the show. They filmed them telling their stories and plan to air the interviews as part of a plot line that has one of the soap opera’s characters, Stephanie Forrester, who is battling terminal cancer, reaching out to the less fortunate.

Executive producer and head writer Brad Bell says it’s not a one-time thing. He has hired an additional 30 homeless people to appear as extras and says he doesn’t want to drop the storyline anytime soon. He plans to make it part of The Bold & the Beautiful’s holiday season. He also said that the whole experience changed him.

This has been a huge awakening for me — I now have a real appreciation for the pillow under my head and the roof that’s over me. So many people are just a paycheck away from homelessness or living in a shelter,” he said. “Our entire production company has been changed by this experience. Hopefully, so has the audience. To be a great country we need to take care of these people. As they say, we’re only as strong as our weakest link.” Continue reading

Kids Brains CAN’T Handle Homelessness

great article over at www.change.org

by Josie Raymond October 28, 2010

Homelessness can wreak havoc on the adult brain, causing mental disorders like depression and post traumatic stress disorder in addition to being caused by them. Imagine what going without stable shelter does to the developing minds of young children.

In fact, one in three homeless kids has a mental health problem that affects their functioning by age 8. Long before that, though, 75 percent of kids 4 and under have developmental delays while about 40 percent of them have emotional and/or behavioral problems. What school teachers think is a problem child might just be a child with problems, a child who is homeless.

Why? Take your pick of reasons: stress, depression, fear, hunger, sleep-deprivation, or a parent who’s so stressed, depressed, scared, hungry or sleep-deprived to give kids the care and attention they need. President Obama’s federal plan pledges to end family homelessness by 2020. Make sure it happens!

Many people don’t realize how many children are homeless, relying instead on the stereotype of the grizzled homeless veteran to distance themselves from the issue. But the average homeless family is made up of a single woman in her 20s and two children, at least one of whom is under age 5. The National Center on Family Homelessness estimates that 1.5 million children are homeless at some point each year. (I’ve got a feeling the number is even higher in recent recession years.)

Continue reading

Elders in Poverty

Came across this article on the issue of poverty amongst our elderly, in the Los Angeles Times. While the premise of this article is based in California, I contend we could apply this to any community across the country.

A few years back, Lowell began the process of reaching out to every single resident over the age of 65. This endeavor is aptly titled “Seniors Count”. A slew of volunteers set out across the city with surveys and resource gift bags for the men and women who were surveyed. This process hasn’t been completed as yet, however, what has already come out was that many of our seniors who were eligible for certain benefits (Veterans, Food Stamps, Elder Services, tax abatements, fuel assistance, etc.) and were in fact not taking advantage of those programs, resulting in less cash each month that would otherwise have stabilized their living situation.

Here is the story in the LA Times if you hadn’t clicked through above:

For the elderly, poverty level

doesn’t cut it

UCLA study tells a much different story of what it costs California seniors to get by: twice as much as the federal government’s estimate, which is based on 1950s spending patterns.

Elderly poverty levelExaltacion Divinagracia, 80, visits food pantries and lives with six roommates to make ends meet. (Katie Falkenberg, For The Times / October 17, 2010) – Continue reading

Work First Models Taking Hold Around the Country!

I had posted about this concept a while back on Boston’s Work First program and just ran across this article on a work first initiative in Atlanta and First Step Staffing. I really appreciate this type of enterprise as it reaches out to those men and women who are the hardest to engage in the workforce. Beyond having the workforce trained and available, businesses actually have to hire them (of course). It appears, in the article below, that an Atlanta Councilman has taken the lead and asking others to do so, as well. :0)

Atlanta Councilman Urges

Colleagues to Hire the


by Jennifer Cooper October 20, 2010 

Having a roof over one’s head is nice. Having a job that will enable one to pay for said roof is even nicer.

Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall helped Erica Merriwether get just that. Merriwether lost her accounting job at an Atlanta law firm in July 2008 and eventually lost her home and her car. By the end of 2009, she was living in a homeless shelter. Continue reading

Homeless Children Like Halloween Too!

I was tickled pink when I came across this article over at http://www.change.org about this Daisy Girl Scout Troop and their efforts to provide Halloween costumes for children that are staying in homeless shelters. Every kid deserves a little Halloween fun. So, from our Daisy’s, we learn some lessons in compassion, kindness and plain ole’ fun! 

Boo! Girl Scouts Lead a


Costume Drive for Homeless Kids

by Josie Raymond October 21, 2010

Christmas is probably the donation-spurring holiday — and for good reason — but many homeless children need a little help participating in other important events, like trick-or-treating. Growing up, was there anything more exciting than dressing up as a witch, a pumpkin or a rock star and going door-to-door collecting candy? Imagine how much more importance the occasion would have if costumes, much less new clothes and candy, even your own front door, were hard to come by.

Daisy Girl Scout Troop 1459 in northern Ohio has been collecting gently used Halloween costumes for homeless children. There’s a decorated collection box in school that’s also available for mass visitors. One trooper and her mom got the idea from reading about a similar project. Maybe someone reading this will initiate another one, keeping the domino effect going. Continue reading

Institute for Health & Recovery Seeks Director of Clinical Operations

The Institute for Health and Recovery (IHR) is seeking a part-time (20 hours per week) Director of Clinical Operations.

The Director of Clinical Operations will support IHR’s mission to develop a comprehensive continuum of care for women, adolescents, and their families who are affected by alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use, mental health problems, and violence/trauma by providing intensive home-based substance abuse treatment to families which will promote the safety and well-being of children at risk of imminent removal from their parents’
This position is part-time (20 hours per week), is located in Cambridge, MA and reports to the Executive Director.
Major Responsibilities:
• Establish and maintain clinical quality assurance across IHR clinical services
• Integrate Clinical Cultural Competency, Gender-Responsive, and Trauma-Informed approaches into all IHR’s clinical interventions and clinical supervision
• Oversee and perform periodic chart reviews promoting fidelity and accountability as required by licenses,
third party billing entities, grants and contracts
• Work with the Program Director/Quality Council to participate in development and implementation of clinical trainings for all staff
• Coordinate clinical case conferences including multidisciplinary case reviews
• Coordinate monthly peer supervision group
• Coordinate placement of interns from a variety of Master level Social Work and Counseling Psychology Programs
• Report regularly to Executive Director
• Advanced degree in social work, psychology, counseling or related field; clinical license required
• Extensive experience in substance use program management, clinical supervision, and staff training
• Extensive experience in outpatient treatment setting addressing substance use and co-occurring disorders (mental health and trauma)
• Experience in designing population specific, clinically relevant protocols, within a progressive treatment environment
• At least 10 years experience working in the field of women, families, substance use, mental health, trauma
• Ability to communicate effectively, both orally and written
• Ability to work with diverse teams, build consensus, and motivate change.

IHR offers a rewarding work environment with competitive salary, generous benefits and a strong commitment todiversity. The applicant for this position openly understands & promotes diverse cultures & is aware of personal
beliefs & lack of information that could impede cultural sensitivity. IHR will provide cultural competence trainings addressing areas of need. AA/EEO.
Please forward formal cover letter and resume to Human Resources, Institute for Health and Recovery,
Inc, 349 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139 or email (preferred) to hr@healthrecovery.org.