Teen Thrive NWA, a project of the Teen Action & Support Center, provides a hub for teens with housing insecurity and other hardships to be connected to needed physical and emotional resources, clothing, school supplies, mentorship and case management, empowering them to choose a path of healthy choices for a successful life, even if they are struggling with the hardship of housing insecurity for a time.
Teen Thrive will provide a pathway out of poverty by locating, assessing, and offering a continuum of care to homeless youth, resulting in higher educational attainment, higher lifetime earning potential, and better health outcomes. We will utilize our gathered resources and collaborations both with community partners, best practices throughout the nation, and formerly homeless youth we currently serve to gain a better understanding of the where, why, and how to teen homelessness in Northwest Arkansas. We will collect vital data for the community to utilize to better serve this population and encourage collaboration and coordination between all the vested parties, resulting in an opportunity for a shift in our overall community effectiveness at serving homeless youth. Through assessment of successful programs nationwide, we’ve found that it is only by offering a continuum of services through both direct service and strategic collaboration that we will be able to fully serve this targeted population and not only show them the pathway out of poverty, but empower them to walk on it, stay on it, and change generations.
Teen Thrive NWA will work to end youth homelessness in Northwest Arkansas. We will do this by:
1) Service - Serve the homeless teen population that is coming to our door with both physical and referral resources, connection, mentorship, and our other programs we offer including family and individual counseling, family and school mediations, and referral to mental health services through RESTORE, connection to the community and mentors through [in]Service and physical resources (diapers, wipes, etc.), parenting education, and job preparedness and assistance for teen parents through First Steps; manage their cases; and connect them to needed resources in the community, including emergency and transitional housing, mental health services, food, job training and assistance, and other established services in the community. When the teen walks through our door, whether physically or digitally, they are connected to a Hub, where they can receive any service they could possibly need and, most importantly, someone to walk them through the process of obtaining those services.
Host Homes - One gap we have found in the local fight against youth homelessness so far is emergency shelter for transition-aged youth (17-24), especially those who are either married or have children. We will locate and open a minimum of 2 volunteer host homes that will house homeless teens (13-19) and their children (after going through proper protocol with Department of Children and Family Services if they are under 18, as we do now) for 30 days or less while we manage their cases and work to find the proper transitional housing solution for their situation.
2) Outreach - Meet with local schools, formerly homeless youth we currently serve, and local law enforcement to establish a targeted outreach for homeless youth. Then, we will do outreach events including visiting schools, places where homeless youth are found, and by word of mouth through our teens. We will begin work to establish online map-based initiative using crowdsourcing for resources available to homeless youth for both community agency and homeless youth usage.
3) Awareness - Work with local teens (including some who were homeless) to host pop-up market awareness event for the community, distribute presentation on youth homelessness, and host teen homelessness symposium for community stakeholders to discuss the issue and how to best reach this group and include focus group of teens who have or are affected by housing insecurity.
4) Collaboration - We will mobilize the community by connecting with all stakeholders, including youth, schools, law enforcement, leaders in research and data, youth-serving community agencies and organizations, religious organizations, and juvenile courts and coming together to assess and map our community’s current service delivery system as it pertains to homeless youth so we can more effectively utilize the great services we have in Northwest Arkansas. We will also locate any gaps in services in doing this.