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For the third year in a row, Alternatives For Girls staff and participants traveled to the state capitol to speak with State Representatives and build awareness of runaway and homeless youth. Every year the Michigan Network for Youth and Families (MNYF) organizes Dome Day, a day for organizations to set up shop in the Capitol, have meetings with State Legislators, bring awareness to the needs of runaway and homeless youth in Michigan, and convince them the importance of thinking of these youth when voting on the next budget. Although AFG staff planned on attending Dome Day on March 12th, along with other youth-focused agencies, the Outreach and Education Services (OES) and Shelter/Transition to Independent Living (TIL) staff were unable to attend due to inclement weather.
Undeterred from their original goal, OES and Shelter/TIL staff made arrangements with MNYF to schedule 7 to 8 meetings with State Legislators on April 30th. “Our main goal was to convey to the Legislators that although funding for runaway and homeless youth is currently tied in with the Foster Care system, because they have some similarities, there really needs to be separate funding because both groups are so unique”, explains Deena Policicchio, AFG’s Outreach and Education Services Director. According to Deena, this funding has not increased at the rate of cost of living. “In addition, we also wanted to connect the link between sex trafficking, which is on everyone’s mind right now, and homeless and runaway youth. Because homeless and runaway youth are some of the most vulnerable to sex trafficking, they really need to be focused on when creating legislation and allocating funds”, Deena explains.
Along with one current Shelter resident, Deena was joined by Lynzi Tarango, Shelter Case Planner, and Nkenge Burkhead, OES Youth Street Outreach Coordinator. Throughout the day, they met with staff from the offices of Representative Farris, Representative Lafontaine, plus others, and had an in person meeting with Representative Coleman A. Young. “One of the highlights of the day was getting the chance to meet with the Representatives. They were very interested and attentive to what we had to say”, Lynzi shares. The importance of the day was not lost on Raven, a current Shelter resident, who told Lynzi she didn’t realize how big of a deal it was that they had this opportunity until they got there. Lynzi explained, “Raven shared her experience of being homeless as well as her experiences since being here at AFG. She did a great job answering questions and advocating for homeless and runaway youth”.