Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Opening Doors for Children

This morning was our third Opening Doors for Children Benefit Breakfast. It was held at the beautiful Gannett Headquarters building in McLean. Despite driving rain, the room was full and it was an amazing event. Everyone especially enjoyed hearing from a young mother in our Assisting Young Mothers program and one of our rising stars from our Neighborhood Based Outreach Programs, a 13-year old young lady who wants to go to Thomas Jefferson and have a career as an immigration lawyer. Two of our volunteers Debijo Wheatley and Amee Borgoyne spoke of their experiences and brought a tear or two to people’s eyes. Becky Manicone from Greenburg Traurig was the keynote speaker and gave us all a wonderful perspective on why Greenburg Traurig is involved with Alternative House. She also shared how participating in the holiday gift program introduced her young daughter to the concept of giving in a unique and personal way. The event was capped by a video produced by Jerry Ferguson of Fairfax Cable Access. By the time the breakfast was over at 8:30, the sun was out and we all left with renewed hope and dedication to the young people of our community.

Judith Dittman

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Learning to communicate

“Liz”, a 13 year old girl from Fairfax County, came to our Emergency Shelter for Teens recently due to conflict with her biological father. As the oldest of three siblings, Liz struggled with effectively communicating with her father, a single parent, about the difficulties of growing up female without a mother figure in her life. Alternative House staff were able to refer Liz for a psychological evaluation where she received an appropriate mental health diagnosis. Liz and her father actively participated in family sessions where they were able to begin exploring how they could improve their relationship and communication. Liz was able to return home to live with her biological father and will begin individual and family counseling soon.

Are you a teen or do you know a teen who needs help? Alternative House provides free confidential counseling and referrals to teens and parents. Call 1-800-SAY-TEEN or 1-800 729-8336.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Targeted Youth Program

Our Targeted Youth Program is designed to help students who have been identified by their school as being at-risk of repeating 9th grade. This summer we worked with one student and her family in particular. The focus was on case management for the family as well as individual and family counseling. The family all obtained library cards and have been attending the free English classes offered at the library twice a week. The student, “Lori”, participated in an online summer school class to help her develop her language skills. She hopes that stronger language skills will help her work towards her goal of an advanced high school diploma. We also helped the family obtain giant bonus cards and are working with Lori to help her learn budgeting skills. We assisted the family with providing immunization information to the school to ensure that Lori will not be held up in the beginning of the school year. We’ve also tried to help Lori’s grandmother with the challenges of raising a child in America, with different opportunities and different cultural attitudes towards child rearing than what she grew up with.

Friday, September 17, 2010

August was a busy month for our teens

Our Emergency Shelter for Teens provided services for 22 residents and their families during the month of August. Residents participated in a variety of outings including going to the DEA museum, a tour of George Mason University campus, a Redskins game, and to the movies. The college tour was conducted by a counselor, who is a current GMU student, and provided the teens an opportunity to explore their educational options and observe the college experience. The residents received information about George Mason that included learning about the admissions process, different degree options, campus life and the tools needed to be successful in college. The Redskins tickets were donated to the game against the Ravens. For most of the residents, this was their first experience attending a professional football game.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Homeless Youth Initiative gets emergency support

Alternative House just got some very good news. The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region awarded our Homeless Youth Initiative an emergency $25,000 grant so we can help kids who are homeless and still in high school find safe shelter. We were going to have to tell 30 young people that they only had 30 days to figure out how to pay their rent and stay in school. Now that won’t happen.
The Homeless Youth Initiative has had some incredible success this past year. In June of 2009 there were 100 young people ages 16 to 20 who were homeless, who didn’t have the support of a parent or guardian and who were trying to finish high school. Numerous students in this situation had to drop out of school and almost 10% ended up in adult homeless shelters. And let me assure you….an adult shelter is no place for a teenager.
At the end of this year we had 200 high school students in Fairfax who were homeless without the support of a family. But because of this program, none were living in an adult shelter and only one dropped out of school. Seventeen are going on to college full time and many others have found full time jobs and are enrolled in NOVA.
About a month ago, I went to a lunch with a handful of other nonprofit executives and we were asked what was keeping us awake at night. I shared my heartache of possibly needing to close a program that had done so much good -- a program that was making a real difference in the future of some of our young people. Instead of dropping out of school, they are going on to college. Instead of being propositioned in an adult homeless shelter, they were living with a family and graduating from school. At that lunch was Terri Lee Freeman, President of the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region. She said they might be able to help. Less than 30 days later, our program and our young people have some breathing room. It’s not safe yet. These dollars will get us through the next several months but we still need longer term support.
The Homeless Youth Initiative addresses in an innovative way a problem that is growing nationwide. With a combination of host homes (like those who house a foreign exchange student), rent vouchers that pay a small amount (about $350 a month) to a family to rent a room to a student and a small group home in Vienna for four young women, we have made a real difference.
It looks like next year there may be federal funding to address this issue. That won’t help the kids who are homeless and trying to finish school this year. We don’t want our youth in an adult homeless shelter with no education, no prospects and no hope. In the end, it helps all of us to have our young people graduate from high school and move on to productive lives. That’s why we will turn over every stone to search for the dollars to help them.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pro Energy Consultants and Air Treatment Company Donate Services

Alternative House is pleased to acknowledge Pro Energy Consultants’ and Air Treatment Company’s contribution of an energy audit and related HVAC services at our emergency shelter for teens in Vienna. Alternative House especially wants to thank Gary Graff and Kathryn Whitecotton for their assistance. Gary, the owner of Pro Energy, conducted the audit himself and found several problems with our air conditioning system. He suggested we have an HVAC company look at them immediately. We then contacted Kathryn, and Air Treatment Company graciously sent a technician, Carl, over to take a look. Carl expertly repaired the HVAC system, explained everything, and even made suggestions on how we could better maintain our system in the future.

Gina Cocomello, Development Director of Alternative House, states, “Alternative House appreciates the support of Pro Energy Consultants and Air Treatment Company. We can’t thank them enough for their generous donations. Both of these Vienna businesses stepped up to help us. They are a perfect example of good corporate citizens, giving back to the community where they do business.“