Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bellefaire Youth Initiative on the Streets

Who Intervenes When Kids Hit the Streets

We invited staff from Bellefaire JCB's Youth Outreach Program to our outreach leaders meeting.  We have all the agencies that serve homeless people resistant to shelter in Cleveland.  We try to update the workers about new projects or new opportunities in Cleveland to better serve the population.  At the February meeting, Karen from the Youth Street Outreach team presented.  In the same week the Cleveland Jewish News featured a story about the project, and will mostly likely appear on the Channel 3 News (WKYC) on Monday or Tuesday. .

The team attempts to build trusting relationships with those who are estranged from their family or are having issues in the foster care system.  Bellefaire has started a drop in for young people at St. Paul's church on the near West Side of Cleveland on Thursday evenings and Saturday from Noon to 4 p.m.  St. Paul's Church is at 4427 Franklin Blvd.  The outreach staff are out at night on Thursdays in the winter at libraries, coffee shops, and other teen friendly spots.   If you are having issues or you know a teen struggling with their housing, you can call 216/570-8010 for help or go to their website at They have come to the understanding that young people need safe places and activities with other youth or they will find things to do that may not be safe or legal.

The other access point for the project is the RTA buses and Rapids.  Each of them have a "Safe Spot" logo that means that a teen can ask for help from the driver.  The RTA drivers and police have been trained to respond if a young person presents themselves and needs help. The staff are trained to deal with teens who are kicked out after coming out of the closet or struggling with being a victim of bullying in their school.   The problem of displaced youth is complicated because there are a number of criminals who prey on vulnerable young people.  These young men and women can be recruited into criminal enterprises or may be forced into sex trafficking rings.  Bellefaire, the Salvation Army and local and federal law enforcement partner to break up these evil enterprises that deal in the sex trade.

This is a difficult situation for the rest of the outreach workers to deal with.  There is always a question about reporting young people to Children and Family Services, and the rights of the guardians in these cases.  It is nice to have an agency that can navigate its way through these minefields.

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