Understanding the Need to Help Homeless Teens
Nighttime, when most people are home watching TV or having dinner, 30 or 40 young people in Pend Oreille County who are homeless, runways or at risk are wandering the streets and alleys, living in parks, under the bridge and seeking shelter late at night. In our small communities with no facilities these numbers are staggering.
Who are these youth? A common misconception is they are delinquents, using drugs and dropouts. The facts indicate they are frequently escaping a home life where there is substance abuse, they are not reported offenders and many of them are struggling to stay in school. Some parents are absent, deceased, or incarcerated. Some of these young people have left neglectful or abusive situations fearful for their safety. Some are not receiving the care they need, whether physical, medical, or emotional.
Judi Lee, MSW, Program Director of Y.E.S.locates these youth (ages 12-18) and immediately provides them gift cards to local restaurants. Judi carries warm clothing and sleeping bags in her car as well as back packs containing toiletries which they are given. She does a complete “needs assessment”, medical, dental, counseling, referrals to education options, life skills and independent living skills and placement in private homes with volunteer, screened adults. Attempts are made to locate their families and assure them of their child’s safety. When appropriate, re-unification with the family through counseling is explored. Frequently that is not possible nor desirable.
Judi has been practicing social work for 30 years, and working with the homeless teens in our area for eight. Three years ago all funding was cut to this program, but through the intervention of the Pend Oreille County Commissioners , Prosecuting Attorney Tom Metzger, and the Crime Victims Services, funds were provided from two House Bills dedicated to provide services to homeless and at risk youth/families to pay Judi’s salary and for minimal services. Judi works closely with the courts as an advocate for these young people and their families to maintain a healthy, intact family structure, if possible. If not, they are placed in a safe environment with services provided.
The Youth Emergency Service program is not fully funded, Judi is the only staff member, and community assistance is needed. A secure storage facility is needed for donations and supplies. Organizations could provide money for shoes, boots, underwear, and meal tickets. A shelter housing staff and an office would help immensely, both for after school tutorials and a warm place to shower and sleep, especially during our brutal winters. There are grants available for these types of programs. Community volunteers who are able and willing to help write these grants are high on Judi’s wish list.
Donations are needed for clean, warm clothing, sleeping bags, back packs, school supplies and toiletries. If your church or organization is interested in fund raising for this project to benefit our local area, please consider Youth Emergency Services (Y.E.S).
Volunteers and mentors are needed.
Call for more information. Judi Lee 509-671-7293 (Please feel free to leave a voice message and she will get back to you)