On one night in January 2015, over 500,000 people experienced homelessness (EndHomelessness.org). Homelessness is a serious issue that many young people face in the United States, specifically those who have spent time in foster care. 50% of the homeless population has spent time in foster care (Foster Focus Magazine). More than 25% of former foster children become homeless within 2-4 years of leaving the system, while 50% of the adolescents aging out of foster care and juvenile justice systems will be homeless within six months.
Homelessness has many consequences for former foster care youth, including an increased likelihood of high-risk behaviors such as unprotected sex and drug use (NCSL). Many homeless youth also often deal drugs to make money to meet their basic needs (NCSL). 57% of homeless youth spend at least one day per month without food (Covenant House), leading them to do anything to not go hungry. Many homeless youth also struggle to get an education and 75% drop out of school (NCSL).
At the Ranch at Riverhead, our Project 180 program provides homeless and former foster care youth with a safe place to stay while helping to prepare them for re-entering the community. Residents follow a schedule each day, starting with workout at 6 AM sharp. If they have not yet earned their high school diploma, they can attend our on-campus Learning Center to make up any credits that they are missing and graduate from school. This year alone, we had 6 young men complete their education. Many of our residents continue their education at the local community college.
For the residents that have completed school, they spend their days on various work crews around campus. They work at the barn, taking care of the animals, or with the maintenance team, making repairs or completing landscaping projects around campus. Once they have proven themselves to be responsible, hard workers on campus, they are allowed to apply for off-campus jobs at local stores and restaurants. We want them to not only have some money saved when they graduate from our program, but to have marketable skills for the job market to allow them to be self-sufficient when they leave the Ranch.
Most importantly, we show our residents that they are loved. We welcome them into the Timothy Hill family and love on them regardless of where they come from or any mistakes they might have made or will make while at the ranch. Our vision is transformation through love and although we may not see immediate results, we like to think we are planting seeds in the young people that come to us and giving them hope for the future.
Foster Focus Magazine-www.fosterfocusmag.com/articles/foster-care-and-homelessness