With the holiday giving season now over, it’s easy for people to resume their normal routine and put thoughts of charitable giving behind them. But thanks to a grant gifted by the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, three agencies are giving back to the area’s homeless youth.
CASA of Southwest Missouri, the Victim Center, and Rare breed were gifted a grant of $30,000 earlier this month to work with homeless youth who have been victims of crime. The collaboration is set to begin on Monday.
Beth Atchison is the executive director of the local CASA branch.
“The intention of the collaborative grant is the three organizations…will provide resources and additional case management so that kids who have been in foster care and…are on the streets will have access because they have been victims of crime.”
Homelessness in Greene County has been a red-flag issue for 11 years now, with various organizations working to combat the crisis. Specifically, these three agencies will combine services to each individual from a joint location, rather than one organization per person.
“So right now, when a homeless teen comes into Rare Breed, they have access to the services that Rare Breed provides. This grant allows for the Victim Center and for CASA to provide a staff person who will be based at Rare Breed so that these homeless teens have access to resources from Rare Breed, the Victim Center, providing mental health resources, and then CASA providing advocacy.”
According to Atchison, Greene County has had the highest rate of child abuse and domestic violence in the state for several years, and the numbers continue to rise. That increase leads to more homeless youth, she says.
“46 percent of those homeless teens have been victims of crime.” However, she is optimistic and says “we’re hoping that as we begin to work collectively and collaborate in these fashions that we will see a decrease in violence in our community.”
Although victims of crime have many resources available to help them, through both the state and federal government, many of these teens aren’t aware of them. Part of this group effort is to spread awareness that there is help available.
As Atchison puts it, child abuse and neglect is not just one piece of the problem, it’s an entire puzzle.
“And that puzzle encapsulates our whole community with regards to homelessness, domestic violence, mental health, poverty, and so if we can work with these teenagers who have been victims of crime…and put them on a road to success, then the goal is that we are stopping this cycle of abuse.”
While this project does help homeless teens who are victims of crime, there are things that local citizens can do to help too. Donations are always accepted, as are volunteers at each of these organizations. Atchison also says that awareness by the community plays a big role. The services provided by these three agencies are on track to be available at Rare Breed starting February 1st.