EXPANDING SHELTER SERVICES

For years, you have been providing the support needed to keep the Youth Emergency Services’ shelter open as a safe place for homeless and at-risk youth. Today, the security homeless youth feel while staying at the shelter is in jeopardy without your help.

With no other options, last year 75 youth sought alternative, unsafe housing because of age limits at many shelters. Many of these young people chose to sleep on the streets instead of staying in local adult shelters where they would be the youngest and most vulnerable residents. Adult shelters can be a scary place for these youth.

YES recognized this need in the community and recently expanded services to accommodate these youth. With this growth comes added costs to provide food, case management, and additional resources. YES is the only nonprofit in Omaha with the focused mission of helping homeless and at-risk youth. For youth like Jessica, there was nowhere else to turn.

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Jessica moved from Mississippi to Omaha, she made some poor choices, and ended up in jail almost immediately. Upon her release in early December 2015, her aftercare worker immediately called YES’ Emergency Shelter.

Since Jessica’s intake at the shelter, she has been taking her responsibilities seriously by checking on survivor’s benefits from her deceased father, making calls to her former case workers, filling out applications for housing opportunities, and applying for jobs.

“Jessica came into the program knowing what she wanted, but needed the tools and guidance to reach them,” said Emergency Shelter Coordinator Lori Lines.

Jessica is now approved for rehousing, working to support herself through a new job, and pursuing her GED at a local community college.

“They gave me a roof over my head and resources to make a better life,” Jessica said.

Youth living on the streets face unthinkable situations every day. You recognize the need for these youth to have a safe place to sleep at night, and you advocate for them with your donation to Youth Emergency Services.

With your gift, you are giving youth, like Jessica, the tools and resources to help them succeed in school, get a job, and become independent, thriving members of our community. More than that, you are giving them hope for the future.

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YOUTH POEM

Anger flows thru my blood

Depression lives in my thoughts

Pain resigns in my heart

Covered in scars from head to toe

Vision blurred by trauma

Hesitation and second guessing

Trust has been broken

The feeling of abandoned and used has become normal

Have made footprints in the sand but have also been forgotten

Made a mask so my true self is secure

Tears have been shed at times when no one is around

Fake smile is planted across my face

Many fears live within me

Seen too many people get hurt

Have lost multiple friends and family

But all together I am a survivor

So don’t underestimate

Don’t judge

I am not perfect

Nor do I want to be

I am only me

-Jeannine H.-

Jeannine is part of YES’ writing group that meets regularly to use writing as an outlet for current emotions and past experiences. Learn more!

SAFE PLACE WEEK 2016

What is Safe Place?

Safe Place is a national youth outreach and prevention program for young people in need of immediate help and safety. As a community-based program, Safe Place designates businesses and organizations as Safe Place locations, making help readily available to youth in communities across the country. Locations include: libraries, YMCA’s fire stations, public buses, various businesses, and social service facilities.

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One of YES’ newest Safe Place sites – CityLight Church Office

How does YES provide a Safe Place for youth?

I went to school and back home every day. I was so bored, not focused, and I was sick of having nothing to do. It wasn’t until I came across a youth at Central High School that was homeless and struggling. Her situation was sad, but she told me she was getting help, and she took me to “the YES house.”

YES helps people no matter their situation, race, gender, or sexual preference. I got help with the little items, but I mainly was inspired to try and help more. I realized that there are thousands of people that have it worse than me.

YES helped me realize and figure out what type of person I want to be. I want to be a social worker that is caring, non-judgmental, loving, life changing, and helpful.Thank you YES!

-Katera B.

Where can I learn more about Safe Place?

Please visit the website for the National Safe Place Network!

Reggie’s Letter

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The nights I spent homeless left me feeling helpless and alone. I never imagined my life would be where it is now. Because of you, I have the security of knowing those dark days are behind me.

Unfortunately, there are still hundreds of youth in our community facing homelessness every day. Youth Emergency Services never gave up on me and my dreams.

Today, I’m asking you to give these youth the same opportunity I had through YES. Please consider making a donation that, no matter what size, will help other youth discover success!

Most Sincerely,

Reggie
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The picture above is from the first day that Reggie moved into his apartment with Youth Emergency Services. That day he got a place to live, but he also got the support he needed to achieve his dreams!

 This year, Reggie graduated from college! Reggie now has his own apartment, car, and a full-time job. Now that Reggie is more stable, he has been able to strengthen his, once unhealthy, relationship with his mom after eight years.
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November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month

“It is easier to build young children than to repair broken men” – Frederick Douglass

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We greatly appreciate you taking the time to learn more about youth homelessness and checking out our blog. This is made possible by the hard work and dedication of Youth Emergency Services’ Youth Advisory Council. The Council is comprised of youth that have come together to raise awareness of youth homelessness and other issues that youth face daily in their often complex lives. The vision of the Council is to provide prevention, education, empowerment, and support for homeless and at-risk youth in order for them to become more than just a statistic.

Through the eyes of a homeless youth.

The Department of Justice estimates that every year, over 1.7 million teens experience homelessness in the US.

  • Over 50% of young people in shelters and on the streets report that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and didn’t care.
  • Of youth who run away, 41% have been abandoned by their parents for at least 24 hours and 43% have been beaten by a caretaker.

“When you are homeless you get looked down upon. It’s harder to get jobs because you have to find a ride to and from work. Jobs are less likely to hire you based on being homeless. They assume that you will not stay clean and be on time for work. Even when you are trying to better yourself and your life by getting a job so you can get back on your feet and get right. It just makes things that much harder to get off the streets.” – Street Outreach Youth, Waya

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The Dangers of Youth Homelessness

Youth who are homeless often lack the financial, social, and emotional resources all individuals need when living on their own.

Many youth don’t know where to go for help. Others fear that asking for help will result in detention or placement into a Facility. Residing in a high-risk, unpredictable environment, coupled with youths’ natural vulnerabilities due to age, Developmental level, history, and current support systems, place them at risk for:

  • Self-medication or substance abuse
  • Sexually risky behaviors or “survival sex” (the selling of sex to meet basic needs)
  • Physical or sexual victimization
  • Unemployment
  • Incarceration
  • Academic struggles (including enrolling, attending, and succeeding in school)
  • Health risks and lack of health care services
  • Psychological issues, including major depression, anxiety, PTSD, or even suicide
  • General distrust of people in general, serving as a deterrent to reaching out for assistance from service providers or others

(Nebraska Appleseed)

Be inspired and get involved

The stories and statistics tell you of the horrible trials and tribulations that youth face. But there are also stories of survival, resiliency, hope and bravery. These youth have their whole lives ahead of them, and this is only the first chapter. Through acceptance, encouragement, compassion and empathy together we can make sure that they have the opportunity for a happier ending. Volunteer, raise awareness, get connected, donate, and get involved. Together we are the difference.

No youth chooses to live on the streets

“The streets steal stories. Crush the bodies of boys and girls with morals of jagged concrete; tear at tender hearts with incisors of glass shards. I tried to remember who we wanted to be. Where we came from before our names shriveled under the labels of “at risk,” “street involved,” “runaways,” “throwaways,” “trash”…” -Unknown

PLANT ONE MORE

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For a couple of months, Plant One More has been partnering with Youth Emergency Services to provide fresh, homegrown produce to the youth served by YES. YES youth have been excited to receive this generous, weekly gift, and YES wanted to share the story of how this program came to be. We checked in with the founder and organizer, Vicky Houston, to tell us more about it.

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How did you decide to start Plant One More?
My family and I garden on a pretty small scale and have some neighbors who garden, too.  It seems like each year everything gets ripe all at once and everyone is trying to give their extra produce to family, friends, and coworkers.  My daughter, Eva, and I thought it would be nice to have a way to collect some of the extra produce and give it to some people who may not be able to garden on their own or have access to fresh, local produce otherwise.  I didn’t know how to go about collecting it

Last year, Eva and I joined Countryside Community Church.  After talking to Mary Beth Link, our Life Ministries Directer, the idea for Plant One More was brought before the Ministers and approved.  Eva and I then purchased the url for the website, and a dear friend of mine, Diane Wanek, created our logo and we were ready to go!

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Eva and I had no idea what to expect in the beginning.  We made our sign – “Plant One More – Produce Donations” and stuck it on our table which is set up in the courtyard of the church.  We have a can for cash donations also. (This will be used to buy seedlings to hand out to gardeners next May.)  We sat in our chairs and waited.  The first week we didn’t get anything at all. That’s OK, we thought, it’s a new program and it’s been a rainy summer.  Lot’s of people stopped by to see what we were doing or to say something like “I’ll have zucchini ready for you next week!” It’s fun to talk to all of the folks who stop by about their gardens. We’ve met a lot of people this way.  We hope that the produce we are bringing in is being enjoyed by YES, it’s been a great experience for Eva and me.

Why did you choose YES as an organization to donate the produce to? 
Our church has worked with YES and Mary Fraser Meints in the past.  It seemed like a good fit for us.  We are able to load up the produce we collect on Sunday mornings and drive it directly over to YES.  My best experience so far was when one of the young gentlemen at the house shouted out “Thank You!” as Eva and I were dropping things off.  

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Do you have any stats about the amount of produce collected so far?
Since July 12, we have collected 180 lbs of produce.  We have received, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatos, potatos, beans, eggplant, carrots, squash, rhubarb , jalapenos and basil.  We have collected more zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes than anything else.  We have two more weeks left of the program this year;  September 6 is our final day. Our goal is collect twice as much next year. 

How can others help your mission?
We can use volunteers next year! Visit our website, and click on the volunteer link.

Produce drop off location:
Where: Countryside Community Church, 87th and Pacific Street, Omaha, NE

When: Sunday mornings until September 6, 2015 – 8:30 AM – 11:00 AM

For more information:
www.PlantOneMore.org

www.facebook.com/plantonemore
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If you have questions or suggestions for us, we can be reached at: info@plantonemore.org

NATIONAL TEEN PREGNANCY PREVENTION MONTH

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It is rare to find such positive trends towards such a large scale issue as the extraordinary declines in teen pregnancy in the United States.  According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned pregnancy, since the early 1990s, teen pregnancy and birth rates in the United State have declined by 52% and 57% respectively, and are now at record low levels.

But despite the rise in all of these prevention measures, it is estimated that nearly 1 in every 4 girls will get pregnant at least once before the age of 20 (source). The issues facing these young moms, their children, and society as a whole carries throughout a realm of potential health and economic issues, from the overall well-being of child and mother, to financial or health issues, to education barriers, and substantial costs associated with teen pregnancy. Parenthood is a leading cause of high school dropout among young women.  We need to continue our work in helping teens to think carefully about the possibility of pregnancy, despite their convictions that it will never happen to them.

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Effective measures of teenage pregnancy prevention include proper education, family support, open communication, accessibility to contraceptives, and accurate knowledge about sexual health, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and the importance of abstinence (http://thenationalcampaign.org/event/national-day-2015).

To help teens make safe and healthy choices, check out some of the following resources:
Office of Adolescent Health: Talking with Teens
Advocates for Youth
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Healthy Children: Teen Dating and Sex
National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy: Parent’s Portal

Girl Scouts Giving Back

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Wendy Hamilton, Fund Development Director with Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska, contacted Youth Emergency Services (YES) in early November with a simple request: she had a group of dedicated young ladies eager to serve their community, and wanted to give back to YES during the holiday season. The best part? The girls indicated that instead of having their annual holiday party, they wanted to spend their time with YES.

YES arranged for the group to come out to its Emergency Shelter location, where they helped the youth staying at the shelter prepare for the holiday season. Together they baked Christmas cookies and created homemade ornaments.

Making cookies with the youth was awesome. It was really laid back and really fun. We all enjoyed that the youth jumped right in and they weren’t shy to help us out. The whole thing just felt like a bonding experience even though we had never met them. We had music playing, and certain groups doing certain crafts (baking cookies or making ornaments), but everyone seemed to have a great time. Not only did we get to make new friends, but we got to spend a little holiday time doing some fun activities with them to bring some joy into the season.” – Brittany S.

It’s so great to see such a young group of individuals recognizing the needs in our community and reaching out to those who could use that extra support! Thanks Girl Scouts!

MERRY MEALS

The holidays are a time of giving. Many people give the gift of time, money, and food. Fortunately for the youth YES serves at the Street Outreach Center, local businesses and companies have been going the extra mile to make sure they have a warm meal this month.

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It began with a challenge by locally owned restaurant, Sgt. Peffer’s, who asked its customers to help sell 2,000 rolls for Thanksgiving. In return, Sgt Peffer’s would donate a meal to the youth at the Street Outreach Center. Even though they didn’t quite meet their goal, they still generously offered to donate a meal! The youth were overwhelmed with dishes of pasta and rolls. Delicious!

So what made Sgt. Peffer’s want to help?

“We love giving back, and after I had heard about Youth Emergency Services and all the things they (you) do, and it sparked our interest. It’s important to have guidance and someone to talk to when you need it. It’s also important to be fed! We decided that giving back to YES would help fulfill our want to pay it forward through our roll sales and to feed the kids and young adults.” – Dana Peffer, Co-Owner/General Manager

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Each year, ConAgra Foods hosts a fantastic holiday meal for the youth. This year, was no exception. The volunteers served up a warm meal that left everyone with full hearts and stomachs.

Donations like this are so essential to our mission. Without a stove or oven at the Street Outreach Center, YES is not able to supply a warm meal five days a week without help from the community. Each day, we are blessed by abundant support from individuals, community groups, and businesses. Thank you!