You’ll find few worthier causes in Corvallis than the Jackson Street Youth Services, considering the services that they provide to homeless youth. With Benton, Linn, and Lincoln counties seeing an increase in homeless and unaccompanied youth from 2016-18, Jackson Street’s Sixth Annual Fundraiser, Rooted in Resilience, becomes more important than ever.
According to data compiled from “Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America,” Chapin Hall 2017, one in 30 of the national population of 13–17 year olds are homeless, while one in 10 of the national population of 18–25 year olds is homeless. In the past year, Benton, Linn, and Lincoln counties saw an increase in the population among Homeless Youth (K-12), going from 1,887 to 2,127, while the number of Unaccompanied Youth (K-12) went from 234 to 278.
Per the same study, “Some youth are at greater risk of experiencing homelessness, with the strongest correlation being youth who have less than a high school diploma or GED. LGBTQ, low-income, non-white, and parenting youth are also at greater risk. Most homeless youth are with family living in shelters, motels, tents, or cars. Some are unaccompanied and have been abandoned by their families or have run away from home.”
Jackson Street, which helps runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth in the area find the safety and steadiness they need, plays an essential role in the local community. As one of two 24/7/365 shelters, Corvallis House, located at 555 NW Jackson Street, offers crisis alleviation for youth between the ages of 10-17.
“While staying at the shelters, Jackson Street teaches life skills like cooking meals, washing laundry, managing schedules, and proper hygiene, with the goal of returning youth to a home that can be safe,” says Donor Stewardship Manager Hannah Miller. “Our Youth Advocates (paid, trained staff) help youth set and accomplish goals and keep their lives on track, even following up after youth leave.”
In addition to domestic training, Miller also emphasizes active outreach as a vital part of Jackson Street’s care-giving process.
“Beyond the doors of the shelters, prevention programs halt youth homelessness before it begins. Jackson Street staff meet youth where they’re at – in schools, on the streets, and at drop-in centers – building trust and connecting youth to resources and positive adult role-models.”
Such functions also tend to differ from competing care providers in the area, a distinction Jackson Street’s Executive Director Ann Craig, is proud to note.
“As you can see, we are more than just a shelter. Case management is core to all of our programs. It allows us to meet one-on-one with youth to discuss issues and utilize solution-oriented resources. We help youth set goals and establish practical steps to achieve them, and we teach them skills to prepare for independent living, including educational and vocational assistance. Staff also helps youth obtain important documents such as ID, Food Handlers’ Certificate, etc. We guide and empower youth to take charge of their life.”
Per a statewide study conducted by the Oregon Department of Education for 2016-18, the number of homeless students in Oregon dropped from 22,541 to 21,756, the state’s first decrease in five years. The number is still high, however, and the problem is beginning to proliferate in rural areas.
Beyond its one-on-one approach, Jackson Street has continued to set itself apart from surrounding care providers since opening their first shelter in 2001.
“We are the only nonprofit providing a continuum of services for unaccompanied homeless youth in our region but we work very closely with many partners in the community,” Craig elaborates. “Issues contributing to youth homelessness are often poverty, family dysfunction, and trauma from neglect or abuse. Because of these issues, the top three partners for each county are school district student homeless liaisons, county juvenile justice departments, and the department of human services.”
Despite its grassroots beginning, the integral work done at Jackson Street over the years has led to major state and federal support.
“From the beginning, a group of concerned citizens noticing a gap in services for homeless youth, formed Jackson Street, opening our first shelter in 2001,” recalls Craig. “Since then, we have been awarded federal funding through the Administration for Children and Families (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) specifically for homeless youth in order to provide shelter, outreach, and transitional housing.”
While Jackson Street has benefitted from state and federal support, public awareness remains a key concern. According to Jackson Street research, at risk youth tend to discover the facility in a variety of ways. Only three percent of youth find the shelter through friends and family, three percent from the police department, six percent from school/youth service organizations, 12 percent find it themselves, 20 percent from the Department of Human Resources, 20 percent from juvenile detention centers, and 35 percent from parents. The remaining one percent of youth learns about Jackson Street from other shelters.
While public awareness is one of the biggest challenges facing Jackson Street, additional challenges such as empathy and compassion still remain.
“Many in the community believe dealing with the problem of youth homelessness is important and also understand that it has a direct impact on the success of our communities, but there is still a lack of understanding of what it is like to walk in the shoes of a homeless youth and the trauma and stigma that they deal with on a daily basis,” Craig candidly adds. “Although having a safe place to be is crucial, it is not the only thing these youth need to be able to overcome their challenges. That is why Jackson Street is more than just a shelter and, why it takes the whole community working together to end youth homelessness.”
The Rooted in Resilience Fundraiser Reception takes place on Thursday April 11, 2019, running from 5:30-7 p.m. at the Albany Golf & Event Center, 155 NW Country Club Lane, Albany. During the reception, homeless and at-risk youth will speak out to share personal stories of recovery and perseverance. Complimentary food and drinks will be provided. No tickets are required, though seating will be limited. In addition to the upcoming fundraiser reception, Craig and Miller emphasize the need for positive adult role models to help counsel a waitlist of young people who want mentors.
For those interested in securing a meaningful volunteer position, or wish to RSVP for this year’s fundraiser, visit www.jacksonstreet.org or call 541-360-0867.