The Importance of Safety, Stability, and Support for Runaway and Homeless Youth

As some of you may know, November is National Runaway Prevention Month. At One Roof’s monthly membership meeting, the Birmingham Working Group of the Alabama Network for Youth, which includes representatives from Children’s Aid Society, Family Connection, and Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity (JCCEO), gave a special presentation to raise awareness of issues facing runaway and homeless youth. Led by Susan Johnston, Executive Director of Family Connection, the group highlighted the following statistics:

  • Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth runaway each year
  • 1 in 5 youth run away before age 18, and half run away two more times
  • 5000 runaway and homeless youth die on the streets each year
  • In 2012, the National Runaway Safeline received 994 calls from youth in Alabama seeking assistance

These numbers are staggering, and it’s important to note that the nearly 1000 calls made to Safeline last year by Alabama youth were only from youth who sought this form of assistance—this does not include youth in Alabama who didn’t use this service, who might not have even known about this service. We at One Roof believe that all persons deserve to feel safe, gain stability, receive appropriate supportive services, and obtain affordable housing. Runaway and homeless youth have likely left a situation where they didn’t feel safe, stable, or supported. Continued instability puts these youth at great risk and we cannot expect them to become healthy, contributing members of our community if we don’t meet their needs.

Service providers and One Roof member agencies are actively working to meet the needs of runaway and homeless youth in Central Alabama:

Family Connection runs a Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter in Shelby County, proving a safe space for runaway youth, youth experiencing homelessness, and youth-in-crisis. Family Connection also runs Project Hope in Jefferson County, providing street outreach and drop-in day shelter services to youth experiencing homelessness. They are dedicated to protecting runaway and homeless youth, giving youth the resources they need to regain stability, and reuniting youth with their families and support systems whenever possible. Check out their website for more information about their services.

Youth Towers, under the leadership of Executive Director Alice Westery, works to “provide housing stability for young adults as they transition from foster care or other high risk conditions to self-sustainability.” Youth Towers serves youth aged 19-26 and their services include street outreach, homelessness prevention, case management, career counseling, tutoring, life skill training, and housing relocation and stabilization. They are dedicated to giving youth the resources and support they need to gain stability and become contributing members of our community. Check out their website for more information about their services.

There is also a group called the Sheltering Homeless Youth Project, made up of community volunteers, leaders, and members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. This group is currently working to end youth homelessness in our community by building a home host program and serving youth age 19-24.

Through education, advocacy, and coordination of services, One Roof is dedicated to making sure that runaway and homeless youth feel safe, gain stability, and receive support. This population is very important to us and we’re here to help. Please contact us for assistance with finding appropriate services for runaway and homeless youth. If you’d like to make a donation to support our efforts, please click here.

 

Josh Helms is an AmeriCorps member serving at One Roof as the Capacity Building Assistant.

The Importance of Safe, Affordable, & Accessible Housing for Victims of Domestic Violence

Last month, in observation of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Jennifer Arsenian, legal director of the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence and member of the Alabama Council on Violence Against Women, gave a special presentation at One Roof’s monthly membership meeting. Jennifer encouraged One Roof and its member agencies to be represented in the ACVAW, and informed us about housing-specific updates to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013.

ACVAW’s members include representatives from ACADV and ACASV (the Alabama Coalition Against Sexual Violence), social service providers, health care providers, law enforcement, government officials, policy makers, and legislators. Information about their work on the Alabama State Plan Responding to Domestic Violence can be found here.

Here’s a quick recap of some of the housing protections now secured by VAWA:

  • A person cannot be denied services, discriminated against, or evicted from housing based solely on their victim status.
  • A lease can be divided in favor of a person who has experienced domestic violence if both the victim and batterer are on the lease, provided the victim meets eligibility requirements.
  • If a lease is in the batterer’s name only, the lease can be transferred to the victim’s name, provided they meet eligibility requirements.
  • If a person is in housing and feels scared or threatened, VAWA allows for an emergency transfer (VAWA overrides current limitations on transfers).
  • Public housing providers can accept a written statement to verify victimization, as well as a HUD form or police report, but there is no one document necessary to ensure VAWA provisions are upheld. (Important note: This documentation must be confidential.)

For more information on VAWA updates and housing protections, check out the Domestic Violence Resource Guide for Public Housing Programs. For information and statistics about domestic violence in Alabama, check out the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center’s 2012 Domestic Violence in Alabama report.

During One Roof’s most recent Point-in-Time survey, we found that about 10% of our community members experiencing homelessness are victims of domestic violence. In our community of service providers, two of One Roof’s member agencies have programs and services specifically for victims of domestic violence: the YWCA and SafeHouse of Shelby County.

Through education, advocacy, and coordination of services, One Roof is dedicated to making sure that safe and affordable housing is accessible for members of our homeless community who are victims of domestic violence. As always, we’re here to help. Please contact us for assistance finding appropriate services for victims of domestic violence.

 

Josh Helms is an AmeriCorps member serving at One Roof as the Capacity Building Assistant.

Dental Day Highlights Need for Affordable, Accessible Care

On Wednesday, October 9th, the UAB School of Dentistry hosted its first UAB Dentistry Cares Community Day, or simply Dental Day, as it came to be known in our office. For the event, a dedicated team of over 500 volunteers from the UAB Schools of Dentistry and Nursing, Cahaba Valley Health Care, and local dentists, health agencies and companies provided free services to more than 350 people. The UAB School of Dentistry coordinated the event with One Roof and Cahaba Valley Healthcare, a local non-profit dedicated to providing access to healthcare for underserved populations in the area.

This was the first year that UAB hosted such an event and the response from patients, participating member agencies, and volunteers has been overwhelmingly positive. Aside from a few hiccups due to the large number of participants, the clinic ran smoothly and volunteer dentists and students were able to treat everyone who showed up, including many walk-up patients that we did not want to turn away. By 9 AM, over 110 people registered for the clinic; the 250-patient goal was exceeded by noon. The services provided included cleanings, extractions, and restorations. Patients also received counseling about proactive and preventative oral health care, as well as medical history reviews, blood pressure checks, and oral cancer screenings. The clinic finally finished admitting patients shortly after 2 PM, and several of the volunteer dentists offered further services.

Dr. Conan Davis, chair of UAB Dentistry Cares and director of community collaborations, expressed to One Roof that he was extremely satisfied with how the clinic went, and that the school is already considering making it an annual event. Dr. Michael Reddy, Dean of the School of Dentistry, stated that the clinic is one of only a few like it in the country being held this year.  Dr. Reddy and Dr. Davis believe that the UAB community of health care professionals is obligated to serve the greater Birmingham community in the best way they know how, with access to affordable treatment.

According to Tyler Greer of UAB News, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that the majority of adults aged 20 to 64 who are living below the federal poverty level say their teeth are in only fair condition or worse.  Fewer than 50 percent of these adults have routine dental checkups, and in Alabama, Medicaid provides no dental coverage for adults, making access to care even more difficult for low income families. Dr. Reddy said that treatments for conditions requiring even minor dental work is practically inaccessible for families and individuals not covered by a private insurer.  Often, the only time they can see a dentist is at charitable events and clinics.  The School of Dentistry and Cahaba Valley Healthcare hope events like these with such large turnouts will highlight this lack of accessibility to basic care in our community.

We at One Roof were very honored to be given an opportunity to help provide care for clients of member agencies, and we will do all we can not only to ensure the continuation of the clinic, but to improve it as well. If you participated in the event, please send feedback to our office about your experience and ways to make it better next time. Thanks again for all you do!

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