Sunday, February 25, 2018

Committee to Address Youth Experiencing Homelessness

In 2017, Columbus was selected to participate in a 100-Day Challenge to Address Youth Homelessness by A Way Home America, a non-profit organization that creates transformative and sustained impact on tough societal challenges.

Subsequently, the Ohio Department of Development has assembled a Committee to Address Youth Experiencing Homelessness. Committee members include representatives from the Community Shelter Board, CMHA, Huckleberry House, Star House, Capital Law School, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Buckeye Ranch, Maryhaven, and YMCA Columbus.

Their focus is: 
  • Unaccompanied youth under age 25 experiencing homelessness, with a focus on providing interventions for young people 14 to 24.

Their draft mission statement is:
  • To plan, develop and oversee a community-wide system that effectively provides a safe place to call home for all unaccompanied youth under age 25 every day.

One of their goals is:
  • To develop a System Map in order to identify providers and entities that target or assist youth 18-24, and to better understand how the client pathway to receive resources works. 

Contact Person 
Mr. Kim Stands, Human Services Coordinator
Department of Development
50 W. Gay St. 4th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215
Desk: 614.645.7571
Cell: 614.216.9397

Oregon initiative to recruit Host Homes

Youth who are “new” to our streets
are more likely to become chronically homeless
if we do not intervene within 15 nights.

The 15th Night is a community-wide partnership that helps more than 300 Oregon youth who are navigating school and life alone, without a permanent place to spend the night. 

Bringing together existing community resources, the 15th Night focuses these resources on the safety and well-being of vulnerable youth who do not have a parent or guardian to support them.

In coordination with The 15th Night, A Family For Every Child will be providing three services to the 15th Night network: mentoring, family finding, and host homes. AFFEC has been providing mentoring and family finding for a decade, but host homes are a new program created to fill the housing gap in their community.

Supports provided to Host Homes
"Housing providers are not allotted monthly stipends for supporting the youth and they assume a parental role in the relationship. However, the pair will be supported throughout the duration of their match by AFFEC and the 15th Night network. By being connected to the network, AFFEC can help youth get their Oregon ID, food stamps, clothing vouchers, and other necessities. It is not expected that those taking youth into their homes will take on a heavy financial burden when providing this service."

Host Home provider MUST have:

  • An available, private bedroom for the youth that has a bed, a window, and space for them to store their belongings.
  • At least one adult, age 26+, who permanently resides in the home.
  • Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Either renters or house insurance.
  • An economically stable living situation.

Application Process:

  1. Fill out a volunteer application. If you are looking at the form and Host Home is not listed, fill out the mentor portion of the application and indicate that you are applying for Host Homes.
  2. Complete a background check and pass a sex offender registry check.
  3. Pass a reference check. You will provide 3 references in your volunteer application that the program director will contact individually.
  4. Have a homestudy completed. This involves a member of the AFFEC staff asking you a series of questions and touring your home.
  5. Complete the orientation period.

For more information, please contact:
Emma Stahl
Permanency Director (541) 343-2856
1675 W 11th Ave. Eugene, OR 97402

Click to enlarge

One in 10 young adults, ages 18-25 years old experience homelessness

Adolescence and young adulthood represent a key developmental window. 
Every day of housing instability and the associated stress represents a 
missed opportunity to support healthy development and transitions to productive adulthood. 

 As a nation, we are missing opportunities to ensure that all young people can reach their full

potential and contribute to stronger communities and economies across the country.

Did you know that: 
  • One in 10 young adults 18-25 years old experience homelessness?  (3.5 million)

This new report Missed Opportunities from Voices of Youth Count, an initiative of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, is the first in a series aimed at shining a spotlight on the quiet but enormous crisis of unaccompanied youth homelessness in America.

The study — also published in the Journal of Adolescent Health — captures youth homelessness broadly, including sleeping on the streets, in shelters, running away, being kicked out, and couch surfing. 
Homeless youth are at risk of hunger, poor health outcomes, physical violence, rape, and sexual exploitation.

Click to enlarge

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Florida Project - Loved the Movie, Hated the Ending

This movie was mesmerizing. It wasn't like watching a movie - it was like walking into the characters' lives, and walking around side by side with them.
The acting was exceptional, including one of the most realistic child actresses I've ever seen. It's amazing that the woman who plays the mom had no prior acting experience.
Quote from one of the reviews about the character of the mother: 
  • "The background of abuse comes off her like a scent. The heartbreak is that she's doing everything she can to break free from it - showing her daughter the love she never got - and repeating the pattern at the same time."

Monday, January 22, 2018

Community coming together to help

Jewish Family Services will oversee a fund on behalf of the 11-year-old and his mother, who are homeless.

Public reaches out to homeless boy, mom
Price, Rita. The Columbus Dispatch, Jan. 19, 2018.

A local social-services agency is coordinating efforts to help an 11-year-old homeless boy whose extraordinary reading habits and positive outlook drew the attention of Downtown librarians and touched the hearts of Dispatch readers.

A Sunday story about Mackintosh Williams and his mom, Ester Campbell, prompted many to ask how to best assist the family with housing, employment and educational needs. Dozens wrote or called with offers of aid such as cash, more books and rent for a furnished apartment.

“Thank you for highlighting this bright young boy who is wise beyond his years,” one reader said in an email. “Is there a fund set up for him and his mother to help them get back on their feet? If not, what can interested readers do to help them?”

Jewish Family Services staff members met with Campbell this week and will oversee a fund on behalf of her and Mackintosh. He and his mom have been staying in a West Side shelter but spend much of their spare time at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s main Downtown site, where Mackintosh can feed his passion for science fiction.

Campbell’s struggle to recover from job loss, eviction and homelessness is familiar to too many families in central Ohio and throughout the nation, said June Gutterman, CEO of Jewish Family Services.

“This is the income divide,” she said. “This is the story of our economic world right now.”

Campbell, 32 and a former foster youth, said she’s overwhelmed by the interest and outreach. “I’m really, really appreciative and grateful,” she said. “And I know Mackintosh is as well. Everything’s a blessing.”

She and Mackintosh came to Columbus last month from New York City in hopes of connecting with a family member who had moved to the Midwest. They also had been in the shelter system in New York, where they were moved to a different site every 10 days.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than a quarter of all homeless families with children last year were in the state of New York.

Mackintosh, an “old soul” who loves nothing more than reading and reviewing books, had an especially hard time in the New York City system, Campbell said. “A lot of the kids are rough; they feel like they have to be,” she said. “Mackintosh is not like that.”

She and Mackintosh like Columbus and want to stay. She’s interviewing for jobs and hopes to find an apartment soon.

“The homeless epidemic is so bad,” Campbell said. “It’s so humbling that people here haven’t forgotten the forgotten.”

The fund is solely for the benefit of Mackintosh and his mom, Gutterman said. To donate by regular mail, make checks payable to Jewish Family Services and specify the Campbell/Mackintosh Williams fund in the memo. Send donations to Jewish Family Services, 1070 College Ave., Columbus, OH 43209. To contribute online, go to and designate the “Campbell and Mackintosh Fund” on the form. Those with questions may call Jewish Family Services at 614-231-1890.

Mackintosh on the cover of the Dispatch

Mackintosh Williams shows some of his favorite books in the room he shares with his mother at the YMCA's Van Buren Shelter on the West Side. The homeless 11-year-old science-fiction fan writes book reviews and recommendations, the latest of which sit on a shelf in the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Main Children's Area

Book Ambassador
Homeless boy immerses self in reading to focus on the positive
Price, Rita. The Columbus Dispatch, Jan. 13, 2018

No book stays at the top of his list for long. Mackintosh Williams, also known as “Sci Fi Guy,” reads at a pace too furious for him to maintain anything more than a fleeting ranking of best-loved stories.

“I don’t really have favorites, because there’s always something new,” he said.

Instead, the 11-year-old writes reviews and recommendations, the latest of which sit on a shelf in the children’s area of the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s main site Downtown. Library employees made several copies of the “Official Sci Fi Guy Suggestions by Mackintosh Williams” and happily gave him the green light to arrange a display of books from his beloved science-fiction genre.

“A lot of kids will talk about books, but he’s like an ambassador of books,” said children’s librarian Lisa Dickson. “When he came in here, he just knocked my socks off. He’s incredibly intelligent.”

Mackintosh moves about the big library with purpose and ease, like a kid who really, really wants to be there. He loves the space and the light and the computers. But he can’t stand the pain that crosses his mother’s face whenever they talk about the other reason for coming so often.

When people are homeless,” Mackintosh said, “they feel over-pressured.”

 In his mom, he sees a daily battle to keep faith and determination from being swamped by frustration and sadness. In some of the other kids at the homeless shelter, he sees misdirected anger and outbursts, like the other day when a handful of boys pelted him with wads of wet paper.

“I try to avoid problems, but it’s like problems are running after me,” Mackintosh said.

They have a harder time catching him when he reads. Mackintosh immerses himself in tales of robot armies and alien hordes, golden capes and galactic hot dogs. He checks out stacks of books at a time and stows them carefully in the spare, windowless room he and his mom share at the YMCA Van Buren Center, a large shelter on the West Side with separate areas for men, women and families with children.

Sixty-eight families, including 130 children, were living in the shelter — one of two family shelters in the city — as of Wednesday.

“This is one moment in time,” Shameikia Smith, a senior director at Van Buren, said she wants the kids to believe. “This is not your whole life. This is a chapter.”

Mackintosh does his best to keep up hope. In the meantime, he turns to other narratives.

“When you’re reading a book, no one knows where you live,” Dickson said. “You live in that story.”

Mackintosh Williams, 11, carries an armful of books to fill out the display featuring his top science-fiction picks in the Columbus Metropolitan Library's Main Children's Area.

Seeking a new star
Ester Campbell, Mackintosh’s mom, has known hardship much of her life. “My dad was addicted to drugs, and my mom passed away,” she said. “I grew up in the system. But I still wanted to instill the proper values in Mackintosh. I knew he wasn’t your average child.”

Mackintosh walked early, talked early and barely had to be taught to read. He seemed to quickly grasp the difference between right and wrong, and relished taking a stand. “He has a moral compass,” said Campbell, 32. “The fact that he wants for others what he wants for himself makes him a beautiful person. Adults can learn from children.”

She and Mackintosh came to Columbus from New York City, where she had again fallen into homelessness, this time after losing a security job and failing in attempts to halt an eviction. Although she found more work in New York, the pay wasn’t great. Campbell felt exhausted by fruitless searches for an affordable place of their own. The chaos of temporary housing — first in a motel, then the shelter system — seemed never to give way.

“They put us someplace different every 10 days,” Campbell said.

She and Mackintosh packed up and boarded a bus to central Ohio last month in hopes of finding and reconnecting with an estranged sister who also had moved to the area. That hasn’t proved easy, and in any event, “our short-term goal has to be for us to get out of the shelter and for him to go to a great school,” Campbell said. “He’s so bright.”

Campbell enrolled Mackintosh in an elementary on the West Side, but she pulled him out and decided to look for a different school after he said he was severely bullied.

“It was just unbelievable, all the problems,” Mackintosh said. “Another child hit me in my mouth and pushed some of my teeth back. People like violence, I guess, but violence should never be the choice.”

Overwhelmed as they are, Campbell and Mackintosh say they draw strength from their faith. Campbell’s birth mother was Jewish. “And I always wanted to feel closer to her,” she said. “So I began to embrace the Torah.”

Surrendering to despair isn’t an option. “Sometimes I just want to go into a corner and ball up and cry and scream,” Campbell said. “But you can’t afford to be weak, because your child is looking at you.”

Finding ways to laugh
As Laurie MacGillivray conducted research at family homeless shelters in Los Angeles and Memphis, she marveled at families who, while seemingly everything around them had fallen apart, managed to maintain or develop good literacy habits.

They read religious texts, passed notes across the dinner table, studied flashcards, discussed good books.

“When mothers and children were looking for ways to normalize their lives, reading was a good way to do it,” said MacGillivray, a literacy expert and professor at the University of Memphis. “Reading lends stability. It also can be a way to create privacy, because often, if you’re living in a shelter, you don’t have much.”

And reading can help homeless children — for whom so many typical activities and possessions are beyond reach — level a field. “There’s no one saying, ‘Oh, you can’t read this book because you’re homeless,’” MacGillivray said.

A kid such as Mackintosh might be exceptional, but he’s not unique in his desire to hone an interest that is his no matter what. “Every time a homeless child goes into a new school or a new environment — and I know kids who change schools more than four times a year — they have to redefine themselves,” MacGillivray said. “If he already has his area of expertise, he’s ahead of the game.”

Over a year, more than 250,000 children in the United States will have stayed at a homeless shelter, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Nearly 2,500 children were served in Columbus homeless shelters during the most-recent fiscal year.

Even those who fare well wind up with scars.

“The fact is, by the time a family has experienced homelessness, they have faced some devastating consequences,” said Michelle Heritage, executive director of the Community Shelter Board. “We should say, as a country and a community, that no child should be homeless. Period.”

Resilient as they are, kids often succeed in finding ways to laugh and play and learn outside their worst experiences. Mackintosh isn’t terribly daunted. He doesn’t complain about having to watch shows on his mom’s phone instead of a television, or pine for a real piano, or pout when Campbell has to say that, yes, $12 is too much for them to spend on a notebook.

He knows she doesn’t like to deny him things. “I want you to be on the news,” Mackintosh said suddenly, “as the most-beautiful woman in the world!”

Campbell playfully shoos him along. Mackintosh zooms toward the middle of the children’s area, where he scopes a few books before sitting at a computer station. In addition to writing his book reviews, he’s been working on creating a game.

“The angels come at the end,” he said. “They help you and heal you.”

Mackintosh Williams shows some of his top science-fiction picks, flanked by his mother, Ester Campbell, and Children's Librarian Lisa Dickson

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Lisa is an Erickson fan :)

I personally am a big fan of the usefulness of Erickson’s theory in relationship to foster care youth/alumni, particularly when it comes to the “Intimacy vs. Isolation” stage.
  • Erikson Stage 6: Intimacy vs. Isolation relates directly to the transitional stage of foster care.
  • The social task of the young adult (within this model) is to create strong, long-lasting bonds of friendship and love. Those that fail in this task risk remaining isolated for the rest of their lives.
  • The ability to relate to other people is affected by personal exposure to trauma. This impact is felt most deeply in an intimate relationship but also has a “ripple effect” that affects every other relationship in that person’s life.
  • Research demonstrates that adults with the highest rate of broken relationships are those who shy away from emotional investment, reject any neediness in their romantic partners and withdraw during times of emotional distress.
  • When young people age out of foster care, they are vulnerable. Emotionally abusive relationships might seem familiar. Predators might come to them, offering to help – and then wanting something in return. Or foster care alumni might try to isolate themselves and take on life as a “Lone Ranger.”
  • If the very first emotional / physical support systems of your life disappoint you, the logical response might very well be to depend upon yourself. This will often get you through the short-term, and ensure your physical survival.
  • But, if at some point, you want to commit to another person, to love and be loved by them, that might be hard. Because, in loving them, you are vulnerable to them... and that means that since they are human, there will be moments when they disappoint you. And at those times, having them fail you might bring to the surface the memories of every other time that someone from your past has failed you.
  • And what do we ultimately want for foster care youth and alumni?  We want them to establish interdependent lives. We want them to build and maintain healthy relationships. We want them to learn to trust, to develop autonomy, to be industrious (aka productive), to know their worth (vs. feeling inadequate) to figure out their own identity, and to create lives of connection, rather than isolation

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Friday, July 28, 2017

And for supporting the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act, proposed in direct response to YEARS of advocacy by current and former Ohio foster youth, I now like Senator Al Franken (formerly Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Life) even more.

Senators introduce their version of the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act

WASHINGTON (KCRG-TV9) -- Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, and Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Tim Kaine, Sen. Angus King and Sen. Tim Scott, have introduced bipartisan legislation to help youth aging out of foster care with housing needs.

“One of the biggest challenges facing older foster youth is aging out of care and being without a place to live,” Grassley said. “This bill would make it easier for such youth to get federal housing assistance so they can continue their education, get a job and have a good start into adulthood.”

“Homelessness and poverty are a real danger for teenagers when they age out of foster care,” Stabenow said. “We need to do everything we can to help them transition to stable and successful adult lives, and this bill helps with that process.”

“Every year, I am given the opportunity to welcome young leaders from the Foster Youth Internship Program into my office. It is amazing to see them push forward towards their goals, in spite of many challenges," Scott said. "That is why it is important for us to lift them up when necessary, and this bipartisan bill will help our foster youth who are aging out of care prosper and continue working to achieve the American Dream.”

The Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act would grant priority preference for federal housing assistance to foster youth who are aging out of care and allow youth in foster care to apply for housing assistance at the age of 16, prior to aging out, which in many states occurs the day foster youth turn 18. 

Foster youth face an especially difficult transition period from childhood to adulthood, and as many as 37 percent become homeless soon after aging out of care. Even more face housing instability such as frequent housing changes and “couch surfing.” They are particularly susceptible to human trafficking and other dangerous outcomes as a result.

Helping these young people access federal housing assistance will provide a safety net and allow them the opportunity to get on their feet and become self-sufficient adults. 

The bill is the Senate version of a measure in the House of Representatives by Rep. Mike Turner.

Grassley co-founded the Senate Caucus on Foster with the goal of hearing directly from foster youth about the challenges they face. A focus has been on helping youth transition from care to adulthood. The transition is difficult, with some youth facing lack of employment or educational opportunities, substance abuse and homelessness.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Child Welfare Funding and How States Use It

*Click on picture to enlarge.
Visit this link to learn more.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

This Week News: Lights, Camera... ACTION!!

Day by Day: ‘Aging out’ of foster care can bring difficulty
By Liz Thompson, This Week News, July 3, 2017.

Her mother died of cancer when she was 10. Her father was physically abusive and she was removed from the home. In foster care, she lived in an emergency shelter, an all-girls group home and a co-ed group home.

Lisa Dickson was inspired by these experiences to become an advocate for change. At 16, she was accepted into college -- her lifeline into the future.

“I remain forever grateful to Randy Mills, former admissions counselor at the University of Kentucky, for literally walking me down the hall to financial aid and telling them, ‘This girl has no family to help her -- this girl needs grants,’ ” said Dickson, now a Westerville resident.

“It sounds great to say that I started college at age 16 -- but by age 17, I was homeless due to trying to rescue my former roommate from a group home. This urge to rescue others is so strong that we Ohio foster-care (alumni) currently lead a workshop called ‘When Helping You Is Hurting Me,’ ” Dickson said.

During her time in foster care, Dickson said she often had no voice. Today, she listens to the voices of current and former foster youth. They stand side by side to improve outcomes for people in and from foster care.

Dickson considers it an honor to volunteer as communications chairwoman of Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio, and as co-facilitator of the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board. She helped create both groups in 2006. Their initiatives include annual trips to Washington, D.C., to share their hard-won experiences and advocate for policy change, such as ending the “pipeline” from foster care to homelessness.

“What I don’t get is this: I aged out of foster care in 1989 and ended up homeless,” Dickson said. “Why are today’s youths still aging out into homelessness? We could and should and must do better.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Dayton) created the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act as a direct result of one of those visits to Washington.

This act, with no additional spending required, allows foster-care youth who are close to “aging out” of foster care to jump to the front of the waitlist for housing assistance when they reach 16 years old.

ACTION Ohio’s Suits for Success program provides professional attire to current and former foster youths who are preparing to enter the workforce. Suits for Success needs a future storage location for donated suits. The organization welcomes suit donations on an ongoing basis. It often pairs distribution of the suits with job-interview simulations and resume practice.

“Time and time again, our young people tell us that it’s not enough to know what the resources are -- they need coaching and guidance regarding how to access them effectively.”

Two such places are Capital Law School’s free Family and Youth Advocacy Center for current or former foster youths and Columbus State Community College’s Scholar Network.

“Even after graduating college, as a foster-care survivor, it can feel lonely to be ‘one of the ones who made it,’ ” Dickson said. “Our young people today deserve to have campus liaisons like Randy to support them.”

Holidays and birthdays can be lonely for current and former foster youths, when many families gather to celebrate.

“I’ve been married for 17 years and have two beloved stepdaughters, but I don’t expect them to understand what the foster-care experience was like for me,” Dickson said.

On Thanksgiving 2007, Dickson and other former foster youths from across the nation traveled to Washington to encourage the federal government to extend foster-care support to age 21. They shared Thanksgiving dinner on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

From 2008 onward, Ohio has held statewide and regional early Thanksgiving dinners for foster-care teens and alumni. Dickson serves as lead planner.

“When we come together as brothers and sisters of the foster-care system, we can encourage and support one another. We celebrate each other’s success and continue to improve outcomes for the next generation.”

Much needs to be done, as an average of 150 children in Franklin County alone age out of foster care every year.

For more information, email

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