Fundraising for Homeless Youth

Introduction

My senior placement for the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program was at Butte County Office of Education (BCOE), Child Welfare & Attendance (CWA) in Oroville, California. CWA is a small office under the “umbrella” of BCOE and provides services to families and students. The specific purpose of CWA is to assist youth experience success within the school system. CWA additionally encompasses a School Ties program that guides youth experiencing homelessness. School Ties offers assistance in enrollment, tutoring, free school meals and other programs to help the student be successful in their school of choice.

School Ties is grant funded and works with other agencies in Butte County serving youth experiencing homelessness. Homeless youth are defined as “individuals under the age of eighteen who lack parental, foster, or institutional care” (National Coalition for the Homeless, 1999, p.1). These agencies have identified a reoccurring theme in homeless youth and that is finding a safe place to stay the night. Therefore, the agencies have been working collectively to create a homeless youth shelter for youth experiencing hardship during transition.

Statement of Need

Homeless youth fall into an area that is underserved and over populated. If implemented, the shelter will serve as a multi-service drop-in center that youth age 14-24 can access overnight as well as daytime shelter. Each month, I participated in the “task force” meetings and made notes of areas being covered. I realized that the shelter would be an empty building and that furniture was not incorporated into the overhead costs. I saw an immediate need to generate a donation of furniture for the homeless youth shelter.

Homelessness among youth is of growing concern in Butte County as well as Nation wide. In the United States alone, homeless youth range from 1.5-2 million in a given year (DuRoff, 2004). DuRoff (2004) produced a study that indicated “lack of adequate family functioning and support, parental divorce, separation, death of a parent, or change in schools” (p.562) were factors that contributed to youth taking to the streets. Numerous studies indicate physical or sexual abuse within the home as a key factor in youth running away (DuRoff, 2004).

Description of the Intervention

My first action in seeking donations was to write a statement of need. In doing this I was able to advocate for homeless youth and express to businesses in Butte County the importance in being involved. Incorporated in the statement of need was a letter asking for donations followed by items that the shelter would benefit from. I met repeatedly with the School Ties Coordinator to discuss alterations in the proposal.

I then presented the proposal to the owner of a local furniture store and asked him to take time to consider possible donation of the listed items. I received a reply in two days that he would be willing to donate. We then met and he also agreed to donate upon opening of the shelter as to avoid storage concerns.

My next task was to present the outcome of my community project to the “task force” at monthly meeting. I created a flyer that incorporated again the statement of need; inventory of furniture to be donated and contact information for September 2006 the expected opening of the homeless youth shelter.

Evaluation of the Intervention

The shelter is still not a definite reality but if and when it opens, there will be furniture available to create a welcoming environment for youth experiencing homelessness. I started fall 2005 seeking smaller donations for homeless youth and eventually decided on seeking donations for the homeless youth shelter. I found it to be extremely helpful to constantly include agencies in my progress regarding my community project. There were points that I wanted to try something different but due to various circumstances would have been unable. I found seeking guidance, advice and feedback is always beneficial.

Reflections on the Project

Advocating for homeless youth is a topic I found myself deeply passionate about the more I researched. They are a population that I feel is often overlooked and overall, neglected. I am proud that Butte County is taking a stance and that I was able to be apart of the proposed shelter. It was a priceless learning experience to network with various agencies and feel that my work will help enhance the lives of many youth experiencing homelessness.

References

DuRoff, C.R. (2004). Factors that influence homeless adolescents to leave or stay living on the street. Child and Adolescent Work Journal, Volume #21, No. 6, 561-572.
Homeless Youth, Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless. (1999, April). Retrieved September 13, 2005, from http://nationalhomeless.org/youth.html