YCAP lands grant to help homeless
Lee Means was thinking about a 16-year-old boy, still attending school even though he was living in the woods, when she led her Yamhill Community Action Partnership staff in applying for federal funds to help homeless youth.
And the application paid off. YCAP has been awarded $180,000 a year for the next five years, or $900,000 in all, to develop a transitional housing program for homeless teens.
The 16-year-old’s childhood had been a constant struggle. Eventually, he’d been kicked out of the house.
After YCAP picked him up as the first participant in its Safe Shelter Program, Means had taken him into her own home for two weeks.
She said his mother was mentally ill and his father had been barred by court order from having contact with him. “He’d evidently been through some pretty violent times as a child,” she said.
Means said he was behind in school because he had missed so many classes. YCAP was able to place him into a group home, but lacked any kind of transitional program, she said.
In the future, she said, a transitional program will be available to youths in circumstances like his.
While the grant gets the immediate credit, she said, he provided the inspiration. She said he’s 20 now, but still checks in with her.
The grant was awarded by the federal Department of Health and Human Services’ Children and Families arm. It will fund a “SafeShelter Transitional Living Program” for youths 16-21, to be administered by YCAP’s Youth Outreach team.
Means called it an extension of the current Safe Shelter Program, which serves youths 11 to 17. It provides up to three weeks of temporary shelter with host families, while the new program is designed to be a long-term placement.
“What we’ve noticed is there was a dire need for older kids who’ve turned 18 and are coming out of foster care,” Means said. She said there are a lot of youth who don’t have the support and training they need to learn how to live on their own.
The target goal for the program is to help eight boys and four girls. To begin, YCAP is looking for a housing unit in McMinnville, as it has the largest population base in Yamhill County, and is the home of Chemeketa Community College, which represents an important resource.
A tri-plex would be ideal, she said, but a cluster of three apartment units could work, as could a house and adjacent apartment. She said proximity to the college and a bus stop would be preferable.
The youths selected to participate will be required to either be working or attending school, and be able to understand finances enough to maintain a bank account and save money. They will be in the program about 18 months, during which time they will learn how to handle finances, cook healthy meals, wash clothes, handle job interviews and take care of a yard.
Means said instilling a work ethic will be a large component
The youth will live two to a bedroom with boys and girls in separate apartments. They will have a case manager with keys and authorization to enter at any time.
If they’re working, they will be required to save money so they have enough to pay the first and last month’s rent once they’ve completed the program.
“It’s kind of a crash course for kids,” Means said. “They’ll be learning everything they should have spent the last 10 years learning at home.
“There are a lot of kids out there who want to succeed. They just haven’t been shown how to be successful.”
If the program had been in place, the 16-year-old who inspired her would be doing better today, she said. “Hopefully, we will be able to take kids like them and make sure they prosper, have directions and goals,” she said.
To get more information or share tips on potentially suitable facilities, contact Means at 503-883-4172, or Kate Stokes, youth services director for youth outreach, at 503-538-8023.