From The Sound of Ideas episode on July 9th, 2015 with Mike McIntyre, Tasha Jones, Gary Stanger, Robert L. Fischer, Kate Lodge, and Angela D’Orazio
Recently, on WCPN’s The Sound of Ideas, a discussion was hosted on aging out of foster care and youth homelessness. Mike McIntyre hosted five members of the community related to poverty and homelessness, including a homeless youth by the name of Tasha Jones, Gary Stanger of Jim Casey Youth Opportunities, Robert L. Fischer of CWRU, Kate Lodge of A Place 4 Me Initiative, and Angela D’Orazio of the Sisters of Charity Foundation.
Tasha was a foster child, who aged out of the foster care system, and at graduation she found herself homeless with nowhere to go. Sadly, this is the story for many young people locally. Every year 120 teens age out of foster care in the area, and CWRU’s studies show that these youth are five times more likely to be homeless. Tasha found herself staying at family member’s house, and then living in bus shelters. Though Tasha points out that homelessness is technically defined as being registered under a shelter or on the streets, but does not count those who stay with friends in basements or on couches. Eventually, Tasha found herself at a woman’s shelter in Cleveland, but was not there often due to being in school at the Cuyahoga County Community College. After a month at the shelter, Tasha was lucky enough to meet Kate Lodge and received a place at a transitional housing unit.
Tasha talked about her difficulty getting food while staying at the Women's Shelter with her Tri-C class schedule. "I wasn't eating, I did not eat for almost two months," according to Tasha. She could not get the shelter staff to save her a dinner because she got back in the evening and she was in class during lunch. Breakfast was too late and dinner was too early for Tasha to be able to get food at the shelter. She suggested that the shelters need to work with the people on their specific issues and not force people to work around the shelter's schedule. She was taking classes so she did not have money to buy food, and she was starving all the time. Thanks to the people at the Tri-C foodbank for intervening and figuring out that Tasha was not getting enough food.
Despite Tasha having a hard time, Gary Stanger mentions how many youth are not even as lucky as Tasha to meet the right people to get into programs. He also notes that the technical definition of homelessness does not really count the numerous youth that are going from place to place. He goes on to state, “when they [young people] show up to the shelter that means that they ran out of friends.”
When asked about increased funding, D’Orazio notes that funders are focusing on coordination between groups to see how their results turn out. With continued planning, a strategy has developed among many agencies and there is an important need to show those funding programs where they fit in the strategy.
Fischer studies poverty and in his research has found that among the homeless youth only those unaccompanied by a guardian are counted. So, in actuality, the number is much higher. Also, the numbers show that, in the area, 95% of unaccompanied youth are 18-24 and 85% are African-American. The average homeless youth is 20 years-old and 81% of the unemployed homeless youth are actively search for a job. As for LGBTQ youth, the numbers are staggering. Fischer mentions that about one third of homeless youth are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or queer.
Later, the discussion shifts to transitional housing and permanent supportive housing. Kate Lodge makes the argument that, though funding is shifting from transitional to supportive, transitional housing is pivotal for the youth. She goes on to mention the importance of living in a college dorm for many youth and how that shapes them for the future. To Lodge, transitional housing helps to provide a similar effect for homeless youth, while also providing a safe place to live.
by Dan the intern
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