By Jerome Baker, Case Manager at YWCA – As adults or professionals, we often have our opinions, research information, facts, or thoughts with regard to issues of homelessness among foster care youth. However, I find it much more interesting and informative when you ask youth their opinion.
Currently, I have been afforded a great opportunity at YWCA Greater Cleveland to have a summer program called teen NIA (Nurturing Independence Aspirations). The program age focus is 16-18 year olds. The main purpose of the program is to build life skills, prevent homelessness for transitioning youth, and develop mentor relationships. We will accomplish this through various supportive services, including field trips, outdoor activities, and career planning, while providing meals.
During a recent conversation among our group, I asked a number of questions to them. What do you think when you see homeless people? What steps can you take to prevent homelessness? What are some of the reasons why youth become homeless? Their responses were varied and thought provocating. One young person stated, “It is important to set goals for yourself and begin to prepare for becoming an adult; the things you do today play a major part in your future.” Another young man stated, “It’s possible that anyone can become homeless and I feel a strong purpose not to become homeless. I want to help others to not being homeless.”
He went on further to describe that programs such as NIA provides for excellent opportunity to gain skills, form great relationships with caring adults in a safe environment, understand rights of youth in foster care, and have an ongoing relationship with an agency who supports my development.
The goal of YWCA NIA program is to equip these young men with enough social service and supportive programs so that when the time comes, they will not be on the list of homeless youth in Ohio. Visit the YWCA website for more information on how to get involved.