Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving at the House

It is the day before Thanksgiving and our Emergency Shelter for Teens is full, 5 boys and 3 girls. This afternoon they are off from school and they are in the kitchen making Mac & Cheese with one of the interns. Tomorrow a donor is bringing over a Thanksgiving Dinner for them.

On behalf of Alternative House staff and clients Thank You to all of our donors, volunteers and supporters. We couldn’t do it without you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Assisting Young Mothers

The Assisting Young Mothers program (AYM) provides housing, life skills training, parenting skills training, case management, and mental health services to pregnant and parenting young mothers. Mothers who are homeless and have no place else to go are able to finally give their children – and themselves – a safe and secure place to live and learn the skills needed to become independent and self-supporting.
One important component of the AYM program is helping young mothers develop the life skills they need to live independently. Through structured groups and informal interactions, residents learn skills ranging from budgeting to preparing nutritional meals for themselves and their children to addressing an envelope. For many moms in the program, this is the first time they have been able to learn many things that we might take for granted. With staff, interns, and volunteers, residents come in contact with a variety of positive role models who are able to answer questions and exhibit positive parenting and life skills for residents. One recent resident who graduated the program returned and told staff that she had learned so much from the program that it had saved her daughter’s life. Before entering the program, she had not been aware that certain behaviors or actions were putting her baby at risk. Since graduating the program, she has kept in contact with staff while living in her own apartment with her daughter and working full-time. Most recently, she visited the program to tell staff how much money she had saved and that she wanted to continue to “make us proud” of her.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Homeless Youth Initiative

I just got back from Houston Texas where a presentation on our Homeless Youth Initiative was a huge success. Kathi Sheffel, the Homeless Liaison for Fairfax County Public Schools and I did a workshop at the annual Conference of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth to tell others about our innovative program and what a difference it is making in the lives of homeless high school students. We were overwhelmed by the response. The conference organizers had told us to expect about 30 people at our workshop and 150 showed up! We heard from educators across the country that they are facing exactly the same situation we are; hundreds of homeless young people who are still in high school and don’t have any family support. Our Homeless Youth Initiative is a unique and innovative solution to this problem that is achieving remarkable results. I am so thankful for the backing of Fairfax County, the foundations, the faith community, our schools and the community members who are keeping us going. I also hope that those who were at our workshop will be able to take some of our ideas back to their communities to help homeless young people nationwide.

Judith Dittman

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Three weeks is such a brief time to help

Teens come to the shelter in crisis and we have up to three weeks to foster solutions to the issues they are dealing with in their adolescent lives. As a therapist working with the teens at the crisis shelter, my hope is that we plant seeds of change. Three weeks is such a brief time and while we try to begin the process of assisting our residents to do things differently, hearing from former residents affirms the work we do. Recently, I received an email and a letter from two former residents and I wanted to share some excerpts with you to show you how our counseling services can influence one's future.

"I was a resident in the alternative house in 2005. When I was there I talked to a counselor about getting some gang-related tattoos removed. I was told about a program called Skin Deep. I really don't know too much about the program. Of course at that time I was 17 years old and I didn't pay to much attention to it. Now I'm 22 years old and after the two weeks that I was there I decieded to change my life around. Your program gave me a little push to improve my life. It wasn't easy, but I did graduate High School. I have a full time job at CVS/Pharmacy and I'm going to start my first year in NOVA in the spring." Karen

"I'm writing this letter to thank you for the services you all provided me with. The two weeks I was there yall encouraged me to better myself thanks to the counseling. Thank you for helping me when I needed it. Yall changed the way I act, feel and I really want to go to college now." Jerome age 16

Susie Guido, LPC
Alternative House