How did you get where you are? Who put you on the bus to school and made you do your homework? Who taught you how to wash your clothes and made sure you had a warm bed to sleep in each night? Growing up, I (like many of you, I imagine) did not have to worry about resources. I had a home, family, and the great outdoors beyond our town. I had a caring mother who made sure I had clothes and food and anything else I needed.
Having a home is everything. That’s why it’s such a surprise to me that our society doesn’t put more emphasis on conditioning young people to have the knowledge and abilities to acquire and maintain their own home. As we are recognizing as a whole society, people need a base from which to operate. Somewhere to store and prepare food, clean ourselves, and sleep—the basic tasks of self-care. But most importantly people need somewhere to root, relax, recreate, and build wings.
In 2007 I made the decision to be an advocate for youth and opened the first independent living housing program, serving young homeless women. As executive director of a new youth agency, I began attending the meetings associated with homelessness. I found that some public-funded agencies provided assistance to foster youth aging out of care, but I saw an equal number of youth from the private sector not realizing indicators of youth success. The lack of adequate support and accountability services signaled an emphasis on processing clients over conditioning behavior, and on funding the organization over successfully transitioning homeless youth into established young adults. So, I built NYEP’s CLP to provide a level of accountability on both the resident and the staff to ensure there is always progress towards goals. I want to reform the way we reform older youth.
It’s critical that young women in poverty are able to find a pathway out. We are that pathway for many young women within that population. Without an intervention and approach like ours, young women are stuck to perpetuate their cycle of poverty onto their children and continue to burden society. We must come together as a community to help homeless underprivileged girls develop their education and skills to obtain sustaining employment and lifestyles. With your commitment as an NYEP donor, you can feel good about improving the lives of the young women we serve.