Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thank you for your Service by Gina Cocomello

Always remember to give back to the community where you live, work and play. Think about what your community would be like if people didn’t share their time, talent, skills and good fortune. Last year at Alternative House we had over 10,000 volunteer hours given to us by people in the community who want to make a difference in the life of a homeless or at-risk youth or teen.

These volunteers were mentors to young mothers trying to find a path to self-sufficiency, answered Hot Line calls for teens in crisis, helped a middle school student with homework and watched as a toddler took her first steps. Alternative House volunteers spent hundreds of hours painting, cooking, doing yard work, collecting donations and stuffing envelopes. Every one of these people helped our clients stay in school, build self-esteem, develop new skills and move forward to becoming productive members of our community. On behalf of the Alternative House staff and clients I would like to say thank you for your service.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Keeping Young People Safe

by Judith Dittman

As I am writing this, we have nine young people in our Shelter and two waiting to come in. We're only supposed to have eight youth in the house at once, but there is nowhere else for these young people to go. We have eight formerly homeless young mothers and their children in the Assisting Young Mothers program and a long waiting list. So far this year we've helped 50 high school students who are homeless and don't have the support of a parent or guardian. Last year there were 109 young people in this position, so far this year there are 180. And our community based programs are distributing more food and clothing than we ever have -- up 50% from last year. Thank you for your help in keeping these young people safe.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Assisting Young Mothers

By Meghan Huebner

Working with young mothers in our Assisting Young Mothers program (AYM) for the past four years has truly been a rewarding experience. Being able to work with a family long-term, and see them change before your eyes, is often exciting for staff and residents alike. There have been many wonderful achievements by AYM residents that I have been fortunate enough to witness: high school graduations, earning driver’s licenses, passing certificate courses, obtaining a GED, and much more. The children also achieve many milestones while in our program: first words, first steps, first day at school, and other causes for celebration.

Many times, it’s not the major accomplishments that are the most important. For many residents, it’s the small things that living in a stable household can create that are the most important, and have the most impact. As one resident recently told me when we were talking about her achievements after a year in the program,

Since coming to live at AYM, I have been able to establish a routine for my son, and he is secure with it. He is going to his babysitter and he knows when I am busy that he has to do his own thing. He knows that things will be the same each day and he can rely on me when things are routine.

Her perspective of her accomplishments was completely different than the achievements that I think of when I consider her time at AYM: holding a full-time job for over a year, obtaining her learner’s permit and driver’s license, beginning to enroll in college classes, living in our most independent townhouse and more. At AYM, I am constantly reminded of the importance of looking at both the very big and the very small pictures: everything from buying a car down to a child’s smile.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Tug at My Heart by Debi Jo Wheatley

My first glimpse of the Alternative House shelter was attending an Open Door at the House event to learn more about the organization. What struck me most is how hard everyone has to work to keep the place together for the teens. They are in constant need of new bedding for incoming teens, walls need to be repaired and painted, plumbing and a roof may need to be replaced. What could I do to help make the place just a little brighter?
As part of my design work, I also paint and thought maybe I could bring some brightness to the shelter. The brightness was brought to me. As I painted in the kitchen and day room, the kids who were in attendance were so welcoming even in the midst of their problems----problems that they shouldn’t have to face at their young age.
One young lady in particular tugged at my heart. I was finishing some work on a piece that I had started, and she was in the day room on the phone talking with a family member. When she got off, she came my way to see what I was doing. When I engaged her in conversation she harshly stated that she’d been in the system a long time and just wanted to have a steady place to live. The more we sat and spoke, the hard shell cracked open, and she was a fun, vibrant 14 year old, ready to learn what her future might bring.
When she went upstairs to do her homework, she asked me to please let her know when I was leaving so that I could say goodbye to her. It made me realize that there were probably many times in her life that someone left without a goodbye. So, I made sure to say goodbye. I told my husband about this encounter with tears.
Since then, I was asked to serve on the board of directors for Alternative House, a very proud moment for me. Teens have so many issues facing them these days, and to confront homelessness or futility in their daily lives shouldn’t be one of them. What Alternative House brings to these kids is a chance that they might otherwise not have either through the Emergency Shelter for Teens, the Assisting Young Mothers program or the Culmore Teen Center.
I know I will be a proud supporter of Alternative House for a very long time.