Driven to learn more about the Springfield community as a whole and the challenges we face (sometimes challenges we’d all prefer to pretend didn’t exist), POL visited a handful of organizations that serve youth and adults living in poverty during its October program day.
The challenge of homeless youth was the focus at Rare Breed, a program offered under the umbrella of The Kitchen, Inc.
Some of the more shocking data points shared included:
Nearly 100 youth were served on its busiest day/night in 2016.
Kids are sleeping in underground tunnels.
This is a regional issue – youth from the entire Ozarks region are often being “dropped off” downtown by a family member or friend and left to make their own way.
54% of youth served by Rare Breed have been in foster care. Many choose to leave “the system” when they turn 17. They reject assistance because they’ve been hurt.
Kids as young as 9 years old (that’s 3rd or 4th grade) have been showing up lately – mostly from Zone 1, Springfield’s northwest quadrant.
Here’s how Rare Breed is helping today:
Teams are seeking out kids and going to where they congregate to let them know about the services available at Rare Breed.
They’re building trust and relationships because all of these youth have been traumatized through life situations.
After trust has been built, they help youth identify strengths and encourage them to pursue those qualities.
Here are some of the pressing needs that were shared with POL:
Emergency shelter specifically for homeless youth.
Opportunities to talk with school staff and faculty.
Coats, hats, gloves, socks, underwear, boots, blankets, tents.
Lost and found items that have gone unclaimed for an extended period of time.
In addition to Rare Breed programs, the principals learned about a program called Safe Place (Rare Breed is a designated Safe Place). There are several businesses and government offices that are part of this program offering resources that will meet immediate and emergent needs of youth in crisis, serving as a safety net in the community. More details regarding Safe Place can be found at http://www.nationalsafeplace.org.
Class participant Rob Kroll, principal at Jarrett Middle School, added this about one of the stops, Lakeland Behavior Health System, which provides psychiatric services for adolescents in the area: “Lakeland was also very eye opening for all of us. Just realizing what it really means for one of our kids to be there for three weeks … I now have a much better perspective.”