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New Support for Homeless Youth

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With more than a year of pandemic life behind us, there’s much that was paused or halted or closed. With dollars constrained, service needs up, and attention focused elsewhere, it’s been hard to be forward thinking. But some nonprofits have been charging ahead – not just with pandemic relief but with exciting new efforts. Here’s one project.

One of the too often ignored challenges in our communities is the need of homeless youth. We don’t like to think about them – because it’s painful to think about, and an indication of a great societal failure. And there are way too many of them. Paul Calistro, Executive Director of the West End Neighborhood House, says, “National data leads us to believe that 1 in 10 Delaware youth between the ages of 18-24 experience some form of homelessness every year. The causes are complex and can include disability and current or former involvement with the foster care system. Data also indicates that LGBTQI youth face even greater difficulty in finding a safe, affordable place to live.” The $4 million campaign will expand housing, employment opportunities and counseling in independent living to young people ages 16-23 who are homeless.

The project also includes a drop-in resource center that provides meals and services to homeless youth.

While there are some services available now, and some beds specifically set up for homeless youth, they are too few and too far between. But as we speak, West End is creating more opportunities. By rehabilitating older housing, creating a drop-in center, and creating entirely new housing for homeless youth, they are speaking directly to this problem.

West End’s new housing for homeless youth should be opened by the end of July.

Groundbreaking occurred earlier this year, and soon the units are expected to open by the end of July.

It’s also worth noting here the significance of West End’s work with youth who were previously in the foster care system. Their 20-year old Life Lines program – which is part of this work – has focused on the particular changes of the community of former foster youth.

All of this is the kind of future-looking project that goes on all the time in most years. But while we’ve been consumed with the urgency of food, medical care, and vaccines, many of these sorts of projects have foundered. And this project shows how nonprofits are really walking and chewing gum at the same time – dealing with the urgent crises of now, while moving toward the future. And this at a time when resources have been particularly constrained.

It’s also a testament to the generosity of so many – corporations, individuals and foundations – who are helping to ensure services where they are most needed.

Credit to Paul Calistro and his entire team for keeping their sights on this critical work.

Thanks to a generous donor, West End has also established an endowment at DCF, to ensure that disabled youth who are using the new housing will have the additional supports they need to thrive.

To learn more about the program, reach out to Tara Quinn: [email protected].