This article originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press online edition on the afternoon of May 30, 2012 and was written by Catherine Boudreau. Read the article on the BFP website here. Our thanks to the Burlington Free Press and a reminder to contact email@example.com with news and announcements related to the VT nonprofit community!
Community members and staff of Spectrum Youth and Family Services filled to capacity the new Pearl Street residence to celebrate its opening Wednesday. Eight rooms are now available to people ages 18 to 22 who have left foster care and need a place to live. Spectrum, which has provided shelter and transitional housing for homeless youths for more than 40 years, modeled the new location after its Maple Street residence, which has produced successful outcomes, said Mark Redmond, executive director of Spectrum.
“What we really found is that about two years ago, the transitional housing on Maple Street started to be filled all the time to the point where we had a waiting list,” Redmond said. “For every youth we had staying there we would have another waiting. This caused a back-up in our shelter, so we decided we really needed to expand and re-create what we have on Maple Street.”
Since 2008, Spectrum has seen a 41 percent increase in the number of young people staying in its facilities, Redmond said. Its staff works one-on-one with each person, providing them with counseling and services such as help finding a job, returning to school and learning life skills to maintain an independent lifestyle.
More than 85 percent of the youths who stayed at the Maple Street location have had consistent employment and income, and moved on to long-term housing, Redmond said.
People can stay at the new location for up to 18 months and are enrolled in a customized program shaped by their specific goals and needs. If completed, residents receive a housing voucher paid for with federal housing funding. This allows them to receive subsidized housing anywhere in the United States.
“It’s just a fantastic segue for young people who are homeless or are going to be homeless to anchor themselves for a year or longer and get the skills they need to be successful adults,” Redmond said.
Kandi Clark is a case manager for the Pearl Street Residential Program. She spoke from personal experience in the foster care system when explaining the importance of the facility to young people in the community.
“When these youth leave the system, they don’t have that core structure that the majority of other youth would have, so they need services like this to catapult them into adulthood. They didn’t have these transition programs at all when I was growing up, so coming into this, I’m like ‘how amazing would this have been?’ It really would have made such a huge difference,” Clark said.
She also stressed how transitional facilities help young people overcome multigenerational issues such as poverty, unemployment, neglect and abuse.
More than 240 individuals, foundations, businesses and institutions in Vermont helped Spectrum raise $200,000, including the Burlington Housing Authority and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Philanthropist Doris Buffett’s Sunshine Lady Foundation matched the $200,000, providing enough money to complete the project.
Leah Ziegler is the founder of Fix It With Five, a student-organized grant program from St. Michael’s College. It uses $5 from every student’s tuition to award a total of $10,000 to an organization working toward systemic change in the community. Students then vote on which applicant receives the funds.
“Spectrum isn’t just putting a Band-Aid on an issue, they are providing support for youth, and I think that really resonated for students at St. Mike’s. They see that their $5 is going to help individuals that are the same age as them. They could be one of the St. Mike’s students,” Ziegler said.