Outreach to Homeless Teens - your tips, comments & stories?

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sun, 23 May 1999 18:12:00 -0700 (PDT)

With so many homeless teens mistrustful of "established providers", what
alternatives might better help them to help themselves _and_ each other?

Is there any potential for "street families" (commonly called "street
gangs") to engage in mutual aid?

Is bonding between youth on the street necessarily "bad" for homeless youth
or local communities?  Why?

I invite comments and tips from people who've been homeless as teens, and
from those who've tried to help "street youth".

See related article below:

FWD  Salt Lake Tribune [Utah Online] - May 21, 1999


     By Norma Wagner - The Salt Lake Tribune

Homeless and runaway teens are as mistrustful of medical-care providers as
they are of police, social workers and other representatives of "the

So creating and staffing a clinic to address their health-care needs does
not mean they will come, say two organizers of successful teen clinics in

Homelessness among teens "is a long-standing issue in the United States,
and it's not exclusively isolated to urban centers; it's occurring in rural
areas and community neighborhoods," said James Farrow, director of the
division of adolescent medicine at the University of Washington.

Farrow and Robert Deisher, a professor of pediatrics at the same Seattle
university, spoke to residents and physicians at Primary Children's Medical
Center on Thursday.

Over the past 27 years, they have used innovative methods to get  kids
living on the street to the clinics, and to staff and equip those centers
by forming partnerships with state and community agencies.

What started as a clinic in an abandoned hotel where the teens hung out
turned into three clinics with 70 beds under the name CityDoc Homeless
Youth Clinics,  open evenings Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They treat
more than 400 youths per year.

They have succeeded in getting local hospitals to provide the lab work, and
community centers to donate equipment and pharmaceutical supplies,
enlisting the help of local and state agencies.

But none of it would have worked had they not reached out to the youths to
get them to seek treatment, both men said.

Farrow outlined several recommendations from the Society of Adolescent
Medicine to help meet the health-care needs of homeless and runaway youths.

The recommendations include:

-- Not making the clinics too institutional, but adapt services to meet
teens' needs.

-- Enhance the youths' self-worth and dignity, and recognize they are in a
crisis situation.

-- Make them welcome, provide continuity and invite them back.

"They're fun to work with despite the complexity of their problems," Farrow
said. "You can make a big difference in these kids' lives."

The Homeless Youth Resource Center is the main source of help for homeless
youth and runaways in Salt Lake City.

The nonprofit center, located at 655 S. State, provides the youths with a
warm place where they can get free food and clothing. About 150 homeless
teens are estimated to be in Utah on any given day.

The center in January opened a transition home near 600 East and 700 South
where a handful of homeless teens can live for up to six months to work on
their futures by getting more education or job training, or working.

And sick teens are referred to the Open Door Clinic housed Wednesday
evenings at the City-County Health Department clinic at 600 S. 200 East.

It is open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and staffed by volunteer physicians,
physician assistants and residents from the University of Utah Health
Sciences Center.

But the Homeless Youth Resource Center is small, becoming increasingly
cramped and struggling to meet all the teens' needs. The center's board of
directors is hoping to raise donations to move into a larger downtown
building so the center and clinic could share space under the same roof,
said Pamela Atkinson, board chairman.

"What we're finding right now is that besides food, clothing and shelter,
they need counseling, physical health care, and mental-health and dental
care," said Atkinson, who also is vice president of mission services for
the nonprofit, charitable Intermountain Health Care. "They need mentoring,
job counseling and education.

"My goal is to see if we can't find some philanthropist willing to buy a
building, remodel it and set it up for these homeless youths."


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