AmeriCorps Project

 

The Wisconsin Association for Runaway Services, formed in 1979, is a coalition of community based, voluntary, non-profit agencies. The Association’s members provide preventive and crisis counseling, temporary shelter, and referral services to youth in crisis. Family mediation is also provided to bring about reconciliation with parents, if possible.  Program services are available on a walk-in basis, as well as through 24-hour crisis lines. The goals of the member agencies are to strengthen families, prevent family dissolution, promote self-sufficiency, and ensure permanent, stable homes for youth. In many instances, youth leave home due to family conflict, typically caused by lack of communication. Other times they are forced out of their homes by parents or leave to escape sexual or physical abuse. Returning a youth to this environment without an attempt at resolution can result in more runaway episodes, continuing family conflict, or even more tragic consequences.

Runaway programs have seen major increases in homeless youth. These youth, who live “on the street”, are in very high risk situations, with few resources and virtually no support system. As a response to this phenomenon, the Wisconsin Association for Runaway Services, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Board for National and Community Service, provides a team of AmeriCorps members to provide street outreach services and mobile response teams for referrals from police departments, schools, and other youth serving agencies.  The AmeriCorps members are available to youth who are homeless, runaways, or in crisis and are therefore “on the street”. Members frequent areas in the community where youth congregate, such as parks, malls, convenience stores, etc.  Youth are provided with hygiene packets, food vouchers, transportation vouchers, clothes, educational materials, and, most importantly, referral services to provide them with safe alternatives to the street. The members also are available to police and school personnel, by responding directly to referrals. Twenty-five AmeriCorps members are providing these outreach services in 36 counties, ensuring runaway, homeless, and youth in crisis have a strong support system and alternatives to the street.

THE PROBLEM ADDRESSED BY THIS PROJECT

The average runaway program receives less than $55,000 in federal and state funds to serve runaway and homeless youth. On the average, there are 1116 juveniles reported missing per program service area. Due to budget shortages, most runaway programs have limited staff, who are unable to leave the offices where they are providing 24 hour coverage and person to person intervention services. Since the Wisconsin Children’s code prevents the entry of most runaways into the court system, the 10,000 runaways annually, who are picked up by police in Wisconsin, are being returned to parents without help for the problem that lead to the runaway crisis. Police personnel can release a youth to a runaway program, but rarely do so because of the time involved with transportation. The offer of immediate access to services by trained, mobile, AmeriCorps members, who meet with runaways and wait to meet with parents at police stations greatly increase the number of police referrals. The same, immediate, on-site response is offered to school counselors and social workers. Resistant youth who have weathered multiple runs and are conditioned to life on the street or youth who are homeless, are often not aware of resources available to them. AmeriCorps members are known to these youth through extensive street outreach. Their contacts are geared toward establishing trust and being available for help in crises, such as sickness, personal conflicts, sexual exploitation, and homelessness.

GOALS OF PROJECT

1.  Community Service

  • Increase the number of hotline, police, and school referred runaways who receive counseling, shelter, and other services.

  • Provision of street outreach services, ensuring hard to reach youth are offered safe alternatives to living on the street.

2.  Strengthen Communities

  • Ensure community awareness of runaways/services

  • Strengthen relationships among youth serving organizations

  • Increase the number of teen and adult volunteers serving runaway and homeless youth programs.

3.  Personal Growth of AmeriCorps Members

  • Increase the knowledge and skills of AmeriCorps members serving runaway and homeless youth and their families

  • Increase the AmeriCorps members’ community contacts and knowledge of area resources

  • Increase the AmeriCorps members’ activities geared towards personal and career development

EXPECTED OUTCOMES OF THE PROJECT

  • Increased number of street youth who have a trusted adult to turn to in a crisis

  • 95% of runaways seen by the runaway program will return home or safe alternative

  • Incidences of repeated running will be reduced to 15% among runaways seen by programs (compared to 50% national average)

  • Increase in police departments with policies and agreements to release runaways to runaway programs

  • Increase in school personnel with an effective means of working with runaways

  • Increase in communities whose citizens are knowledgeable and service minded regarding runaway, homeless, and street youth

  • Coordination of community agencies with focus on the special needs of street youth

  • AmeriCorps members who have expertise in rapid referral response and community referral resources

 

For information about AmeriCorps programs across Wisconsin, please visit the Wisconsin National and Community Service Board's website at www.servewisconsin.org and AmeriCorps' website at www.americorps.org

 


 

AmeriCorps Program Locations

Appleton: Tim Bohrer
Boys and Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley, Inc.
160 South Badger Ave
Appleton, WI 54914-5228
Office: (920) 731-0555
Hotline: (920) 731-0557
Fax: (920) 968-2716
tbohrer@bgclubfoxvalley.org

Green Bay: Christiana Vanseth
Family Services of NE WI
300 Crooks Street / POB 22308
Green Bay, WI 54305-2308
Office: (920) 436-4360 x 1287
Hotline: (920) 436-8888
Fax: (920) 436-4376
cvanseth@familyservicesnew.org
(Brown)

Janesville: Project 16:49
Tammy DeGarmo, Executive Director
740 N. Randall Avenue
Janesville, WI 53545
(608) 314-5501
ed@project1649.org

LaCrosse: Jeanie Schoenhals
LSS - RAYS
2307 South Avenue
La Crosse, WI 54650
Office: (608) 787-7550
Hotline: 855-LSS-RAYS
Fax: (608) 788-6623
(Buffalo, Crawford, Jackson, LaCrosse, Monroe, Richland, Trempealeau, Vernon)
jeanie.schoenhals@lsswis.org

Madison: Casey Behrend
Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin, Inc (Briarpatch)
1955 Atwood Avenue
Madison, WI 53704
Office: (608) 245-2550
Hotline: (608) 251-1126 / (800) 798-1126
Fax: (608) 245-2551
Casey.behrend@briarpatch.org
(Dane, Dodge, Jefferson)

Menomonie: Colette Hummel
TeenCare Crisis Intervention Prog
603 Terrill Road
Menomonie, WI 54751
Office: (715) 235-9552
Hotline: (715) 235-8882
(800)491-TEEN
Fax: (715) 235-1075
chummel@positive-alternatives.org
PAI@Positive-Alternatives.org
(Barron, Dunn, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, St. Croix)

Milwaukee:Ben Hastil
Walkers Point Youth &Family Ctr
2030 W National Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53204
Office: (414) 672-5300
Hotline: (414) 647-8200
Fax: (414) 672-5340
audra.oconnell@walkerspoint.org

Milwaukee: Julie Bock
Pathfinders Youth Shelter
1614 East Kane Place
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Office: (414) 271-1560
Hotline: (414) 271-1560
Fax: (414) 271-1831
jbock@pathfindersmke.org

Racine: Pamala Handrow
SAFE Haven Youth Shelter
1030 Washington Avenue
Racine, WI 53403-1762
Office: (262) 637-9559
Hotline: (262) 632-0424
Fax:  (262) 632-8758
(Racine, Walworth)
jbrown@safehavenofracine.org

Rhinelander: Angela Dexter
KIN, Inc.
62 N. Brown Street
PO Box 895
Rhinelander, WI 54501
Office/Fax: (715) 365-7003
Hotline: (715) 927-TEEN
angela@kinrhinelander.com
(Forest, Oneida, Vilas)

Sheboygan: Emily Kunde
LSS RAYS
706 North 9th Street
Sheboygan, WI 53081
Office: (920) 458-7100
Hotline: 1-855-LSS-RAYS
Fax: (920) 458-5670
emily.kunde@lsswis.org
(Calumet, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Sheboygan)

Superior: Jane Larson
Project Reach Out
1500 N. 34th Street, Suite 200
Superior, WI 54880
Office: (715) 395-6429
Hotline: 1-855-LSS-RAYS
Fax: (715) 392-6055
jane.projectreachout@gmail.com
(Burnett, Douglas, Sawyer, Washburn, Ashland, Bayfield, Iron, Price)

West Bend, Port Washington: John Bergson
Youth & Family Project
630 Elm Street
West Bend, WI 53095
Office: (262) 338-1661
Hotline: (800) 924-3555
Fax: (262) 338-7761
jbergson@youthandfamilyproject.org
(Washington, Ozaukee)


Reflection by AmeriCorps Members

Where?

by: Angela Endejan

Mom and I are fighting again,
Where did I go wrong?
She’s starting her next bottle of gin,
Where did I go wrong?
I just found out I am pregnant,
Where did I go wrong?
My bags are on the sidewalk,
Where did I go wrong?

A car, a park bench, a cardboard box,
Where will I sleep tonight?
I heard we are expecting snow,
Where will I sleep tonight?
I don’t know how long this couch can be my bed,
Where will I sleep tonight?
My bags are all tattered and torn,
Where will I sleep tonight?

I heard that this place can help me,
Where do I begin?
They have given me a place to stay,
Where do I begin?
I need to finish my GED and get a job
Where do I begin?
My bags have a place to call home
Where do I begin?

I sign my lease next week,
Where has the time gone?
My baby gets bigger every day,
Where has the time gone?
I graduated and have a full-time job,
Where has the time gone?
My bags are no longer needed,
Where has the time gone?

About two years ago, all I wanted to know,
Where did I go wrong?
Every night I worried,
Where will I sleep tonight?
I started a new adventure wondering,
Where do I begin?
And now I sit here writing this asking,
Where has the time gone?

Without all these questions,
I could have never found the answers.

Thank you.

 

The author is a full-time AmeriCorps member at the Youth and Family Project in West Bend, WI who works with the Transitional Housing and Street Outreach programs. She hopes to receive both her professional counseling and alcohol and drug counseling licenses and continue to work with youth in Wisconsin.

 


 

My name is Jenna Van Der Sande and I’m an Americorp for Project Youth, part of Lutheran Social Services. My area of service is in Sheboygan County and I am a first year Americorps. I really enjoy working the youth and families in my area, this experience has opened my eyes and I appreciate the opportunity to serve my community. My pieces are about what our goal as an outreach team and about a youth that we service through our drop-in program that I admire.

An Outreach Tanka

walking all the streets
searching, looking to reach out
youth who need our help
helping our community
brings families together

A Sonnet: The Young One

Young one,
Insightful on the inside
Tough exterior to some
And to me she can confide

Dances like no one cares
And speaks from her heart
On paper does she dare
Declare what sets her apart

Such knowing views
For such a young girl
Wonder who or what is her muse
And what else from her can unfurl

What a wonderful youth to know
Cannot wait to see what path she’ll follow

 


 

Author Biography: Erin Roemer is an MSW Graduate Student who resides in Brookfield, WI. Under the direction of the Wisconsin Association for Homeless and Runaway Services, she serves as a Street Outreach Program worker at the Youth and Family Project, Inc. in West Bend.

Easier Than Not

By Erin Roemer

It’s easier than not
to forget what we do
is of vast importance
to more than a few

The youth we serve
the steps we take
the compassion we give
did enough progress we make

At the end of a hard day
we question our work
Did I make a difference?
Did I erase any hurt?

Sometimes a smile
A story she confides
An inquisitive “Where were you?”
She won’t let it slide

Reminds me I’m needed
On me she depends
for a listening ear, a role model
a mentor or friend

I serve to amend
one life at a time
so she may have one
more like yours and mine

It’s easier than not
to stand in the distance
but service is our calling
our duty to make a difference