For some teenagers, life has already seen its share of pain and heartache. In Leon County, the school district estimated last spring that there were over 700 young people who fall into the category of homelessness. Most are with their families, but many teens are on their own and it makes looking forward to the future with optimism difficult at best. WFSU Producer Rebecca Alvis looked into a local program called Going Places, an innovative program by Capital City Youth Services to better reach the homeless youth of Leon County.
Calvin Read is a client. “I try to give a little back because they’ve helped me a lot. I do what I can and what my experience lets me. I had hit rough times. I had been in juvenile lockup and it was hard getting on my feet – going through family struggles and I wasn’t really getting anywhere. So I figured I’d try out here and I did. And it’s helped me a lot.”
Kevin Priest, CEO and President of Capital City Youth Services notes that the street outreach program is specifically for kids that have made the choice to live on the street or in some other alternative housing and to help them have more control over their environment and their lives.
“Homelessness looks different for everyone.” Taylor Biro is the Street Outreach Advocate of Going Places. “So it’s not always going to be a kid on the side of the road asking for something. It could very easily be someone in a house, doubled up, couch surfing. We’re never going to be able to see all the kids that might need some help. So yeah, there are a lot more kids than I think we could ever count.”
The Street Outreach program initially started as a mobile unit and it was able to go out and identify youth in the community who were living without proper living arrangements and getting services to them.
Kevin Priest says, “I think the drop-in center gives us a threshold or a stronghold in the community. It lets kids know where we’re going to be at and what particular times of day during the week where they can access services on their own time. To ensure that they’re getting some kind of help with a healthy lifestyle. And also ensuring that they’re getting their basic needs met.”
“They’ve helped me get a bike. Tried to help me find places to live, work. Using the computers, the WIFI here, books, clothes. I mean, they have a bunch of stuff to help you,” says client Calvin Read.
There is also a food bank so kids can fill up a grocery bag, and if they’re traveling, they can get supplies to take with them. A clothing closet provides them with new clothes and there’s a washer so they can wash the clothing they already have. Going Places also helps their clients look for jobs through Career Source Capital Region in the area which can help them navigate the system. Volunteers help walk the clients through the resources available which makes it easier for the kids to access.
“We try to keep staying on the streets a lot. We go to the skate park and we go to where all the kids hang out at and we just try to meet new kids. We try and help make sure their goals are represented, because if you put your own goals on them, then it might not happen for them,” says Taylor Biro. “We have so many other counties that could use help, so we’d like to tap more into the counties and figure out more resources. I think every day we find a new spot where there are kids, so it’s just going to be endless with us.”
Going Places aims to identify runaway, homeless, and exploited youth under age 22 and provide services to encourage a healthy, self-sufficient lifestyle.
Sitting in front of a shelf filled with books and games, Kevin Priest sums it up, “The staff, here particularly, is not one of those where they are only reachable up until five o’clock. They’re constantly getting called late into the evening, on weekends, things of that nature. So services are truly available to kids 24 hours a day.”
For more information on the Going Places program, visit http://www.ccys.org/all-project-list/going-places/.