Homeless Youth Archives - Alternatives For Girls

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Searching for Stability: After finding AFG’s shelter, Jordan can finally focus on her future

Jul. 3 2019 | Tags: ,


That’s what Jordan* felt when she and her daughter arrived at Alternatives For Girls.

As she tells her story, she re­lives the emotion. Her shoulders un-tense. She mimics a “phew” sound. She melts into the chair and smiles at her daughter who is playing nearby.

Searching for Stability

Jordan’s parents both died when she was young. She lived with her sister for a while, but wasn’t receiving the support or care she needed.

She was often left to care for her young nephew after school, leaving her little time to study. After missing an important final because she needed to care for her nephew, Jordan was almost held back a grade.

During her senior year, Jordan found out she was pregnant with her daughter. Her sister kicked her out, and Jordan had to search for a place to stay.

“Ever since that time, I’ve had a hard time being stable,” Jordan shares.

Vulnerable. Alone.

Jordan became homeless. For a while, Jordan was able to stay with friends and acquaintances. Finishing her education was so important to her that she managed to graduate high school during this time.

When her options ran out, Jordan faced being out on the streets with her daughter.

Finding Stability

Jordan called AFG, and was able to move in within an hour. Fi­nally, Jordan was able to exhale. For years, all of her energy was focused on just surviving. Once she was in AFG’s shelter, she was able to focus on herself, her daughter, and her goals.

She didn’t let any time go to waste. Once she settled in, Jordan began to learn skills that will help her live on her own.

“Now that I have somewhere that can support what I need, I’m able to be more focused on my end goals,” she shares.

A Bright Future

Jordan is working towards getting a good job, a car, and an apartment for her and her daughter. In the future, she plans to continue her education and study engineering.

It’s because of your support that young women have a stable place to stay and the support they need to reach their goals. Thank you for supporting girls and young women!

 *Name has been changed to protect her confidentiality.

Alternatives For Girls’ Prom

Aug. 31 2018 | Tags: , , , , , , ,

On August 17th, Alternatives For Girls held its first ever prom! The event was held for the girls and women in AFG’s programs who were not able to attend their own prom. On the day of the event, staff and volunteers transformed AFG’s community room into a beautiful ballroom. Thanks to many generous individuals, businesses, and groups, the room was complete with sound, lighting, a special favor bar with lots of candy, and formal tablescapes.

Before the prom began, the girls and women were pampered by volunteer hairstylists and make-up artists. Once they were ready, they put on their beautiful dresses, shoes, and accessories, which were all donated by generous individuals, and walked down the red carpet. After getting their photo taken, the party began!

The girls and women had a blast dancing along to the music, courtesy of DJ Rue. After some dancing, everyone enjoyed a delicious dinner, complete with dessert. The highlight of the night came when each girl and woman was pronounced Prom Queen! Each of them received their very own crown, and many teared up while putting it on.

The dancing continued until the night came to a close. Each girl and woman left with a smile on their face, grateful for experiencing the special evening.

Alternatives For Girls would like to thank all of the donors and volunteers who made the AFG Prom possible! We could not have done it without your support.

Sew Great Detroit Moves to Ponyride: With the help of a group of dedicated volunteers, SGD moves to their new home

Aug. 31 2017 | Tags: , , , , ,

In July, Sew Great Detroit (SGD) moved from the crowded and cramped craft room at AFG that they had called home for nearly 3 years, to Ponyride. Bursting with inspiration and creativity, Ponyride is a nonprofit in Corktown that rents space to budding artists, makers, and entrepreneurs. Its mission is “to be a catalyst for deploying social capital to a diverse group of artists, creative entrepreneurs, and makers who are committed to working together to make communities in Detroit sustainable.”

SGD is a social enterprise program headed by AFG’s volunteers and supported by AFG’s donors, that teaches participants sewing and employment skills. With this move, SGD joins the ranks of over 60 other residents, including Anthology Coffee and The Lip Bar.

Four Young Women Learn to Sew, and Much More

The move coincides with the addition of four new members of the team. The young women, all residents of AFG’s Shelter, didn’t know how to sew before their first week. After only three days, each girl was able to make multiple baby bibs (a SGD staple) on her own.

“Sewing takes a lot of patience. I’m the type of person who has anxiety and sometimes panics. But it’s teaching me to pay attention and slow down. I really like it,” shares Angel, 18.

In addition to having more space and being around other creative business people, another benefit to the move is that it creates a separate space for work outside of their current home at AFG. It is also convenient, located only 2 miles away from AFG. This allows the young women to walk, bike, or take the bus to and from work. “I love that AFG offers a job for us. I like that SGD allows us to be productive and it makes us feel at home in the work place,” Angel explains.

Making the Move

With the support of AFG’s staff, Board of Directors, and Lois Cohn, new AFG Board Member and longtime SGD supporter, the process for applying for space and moving to Ponyride began more than a year ago. “The idea of moving to Ponyride has been a dream since we first launched Sew Great Detroit,” shared Janet McAuliffe, SGD volunteer since 2014.

Once the lease was signed, the space required electrical wiring and lighting to suit SGD’s needs. Thanks to a generous in kind donation from electrical contractor, John Jacobson, owner of J-Power, LLC, the work took only one day to complete.

Finally, with the help of AFG Facilities Coordinator, Robert Blurton, volunteers, and family members, the sewing machines, tables, and supplies were moved to the new space and operation resumed!

SGD Volunteers Teach Girls to Sew, and Build Confidence

SGD was created and made possible by a group of dedicated volunteers. “My favorite part of volunteering [with SGD] is seeing how the women blossom when they learn that they can do something new. The look of satisfaction on their faces when they sew for the first time is priceless!” shares Muriel, who has been volunteering with SGD for two and a half years. Toni, who has been volunteering for one year, agrees, “I love being at the beginning of a promising social enterprise that provides valuable skills to women.”

The new space is a dream come true for the volunteers. “It’s such an upbeat, stimulating place. Our space is light and bright. Even more importantly – it’s ours. We don’t have to share it with anyone. It feels so professional. The move is really a growth step for us,” says Muriel.

“Although we have a small shop (only 300 square feet), the Sew Great Detroit team, seamstresses and volunteers are working in the midst of other artisans that are producing exciting products and services. We have our products on display and every day both visitors and other artisans stop to admire the progress of our new team.  This encouragement is an emotional boost as well as a source of pride that really helps when learning something very new.” Janet adds.

Planning for the Future

SGD has big dreams for the future, “We believe that the entrepreneurial focused environment [at Ponyride] will help our team achieve the goals of expanding capacity to include more members and achieve financial sustainability,” reflects Janet. Another volunteer, Fran, who has been with SGD for almost 3 years, said; “I’m looking forward to watching SGD grow and expand into a viable manufacturing business.”

Currently, SGD is producing its “Hold the Phone” cross body cell phone bag, adult size chef bib aprons, child size reversible bib aprons, and kerchief style baby bibs. As the team develops their sewing skills, additional products will be added to the lineup.

As SGD settles into their new home, one thing that won’t change is the impact it has on its members. “I love being around other productive women. There’s going to be so many skills that I will take out of here,” Angel smiles.

You can check out SGD’s handmade goods at the Ponyride Detroit Design Festival on Wednesday, September 20th from 4 pm – 10 pm and Saturday, September 30th from 10 am – 6 pm and at the Ponyride Market on Saturday, October 14th from 10 am – 2 pm. We hope to see you there!

Eat Your Vegetables: AFG partners with Eat No Evil to teach girls culinary skills and the benefits to plant based eating

Aug. 1 2017 | Tags: , ,

This month, two young women from AFG’s Shelter worked alongside plant-based health food company Eat No Evil to learn culinary skills and the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Eat No Evil makes and sells vegan nutrition bars at local health and wellness centers and hospitals. “Eat No Evil bars are good for your body and for the planet. The packaging is biodegradable and the bars are vegan,” shares Rachelle Nash, owner of Eat No Evil.

Jessica and Sharai have only been at AFG for a few weeks, but they are already taking big steps to work towards their goals. Both young women have secured two jobs, in addition to working part time for Eat No Evil. For Jessica, this experience solidified her desire to become a chef. “I’d like to go to school for culinary arts. I want to learn how to make all the fancy foods,” she smiles.

Since creating Eat No Evil Rachelle planned to reach out to local community organizations, like AFG, to employ its’ participants. After meeting AFG Board Member, Pam Rodgers, and being introduced to AFG, she knew it was a perfect fit. “The idea was twofold, to hire girls at AFG to help make the product and then hopefully employ them in other ways down the line,” Rachelle explains.

For two weeks, Jessica and Sharai helped Rachelle make and package 600 bars for a Rhonda Walker Foundation event held on July 30th. The small group had fun listening to music, melting chocolate, and assembling the bars right here at AFG! “I learned how to make the bars and how to melt chocolate,” Sharai reflects. Now that they’ve learned these skills, Sharai and Jessica talked about making the bars for family and friends, “Now I can trick my kids and say, ‘Here, try these brownies!’” she laughs.

As Eat No Evil grows, Rachelle hopes to add an educational component so that she can teach the community the benefits of eating a vegan diet, “I hope to show them the science behind eating plant based meals,” she shares. In addition, she hopes to become a vendor at Whole Foods and Lucky’s Market.

“I’ve had fun working with the team!” Sharai exclaims as she melts the chocolate that tops each bar. As the group works to complete the last of the 600 bars, Jessica reflects on the experience while packaging one of the Chocolate Coconut bars, “To me, it’s been a great experience.”

AFG Blog: Meet Katie

Dec. 2 2016 | Tags: , ,

The author of this month’s AFG Blog, Katie*, shares her story of becoming homeless and finding a home at Alternatives For Girls.

I’ve lived at Alternatives For Girls for six months now. Long time right? I know, but I’m thankful I was able to even stay that long. Before coming to AFG it was rough. My friend got put out of her home and my family said she could come live with us. But, my family grew to be unhappy with the situation and asked us both to leave. For the next seven months, my whole life did a 360. It was the worst experience. I was scared, I had nowhere to go. I went from hotel to hotel, to people I called “friends and family”. I used to work overtime just so I didn’t have to be outside. I sold my phones, my clothes, shoes, and my laptop from school, so we could have a place to sleep.

I became involved with AFG after I was looking on my phone for different shelters. I had visited AFG once before and after looking at pictures, my friend and I decided to call to see if we could stay. I didn’t want to go to a shelter, I was scared, but I felt like it was the best decision.

Once I got on the right track, I had so many job opportunities sent my way, with help from the staff, especially Ms. Angela, Ms. Julia, and Ms. Shanae. AFG is like a family to me, from some of the staff to the residents there. They push me and support me in anything I need. I will truly miss them when I leave. But I’m so glad to come across the opportunity.

The lessons I’ve learned were: being independent, staying focused, and working hard. I use to depend on the world to have my back, but I got a wakeup call and now I just depend on myself. I work so hard because it feels so good when you do it yourself! Since I’ve been at AFG, I’ve managed to accomplish the goals I set for myself like becoming stable, having steady jobs and being happy. I did this with the help of my Resident Advisor, Ms. McKeba. She’s the best and I love her dearly! She pushes me so hard and sometimes I ask “Oh my God, why me?” But I’m glad she sees the potential in me to do better.

My plans for the future are to be genuinely happy and comfortable and to make my family and friends proud! To show the world the great independent woman I’ve become! I love kids and want to become a childcare director or pediatrician.

I really found my passion at AFG too.  I’ve always loved kids but working with the AFG Rise N’ Shine summer camp was the best job I’ve ever had. No worries, just pure happiness. We laughed, they drove me crazy, but I’d do it all over again.

Being a part of AFG gave me a chance to find myself, try to stress less, and remain focused. They gave me housing opportunities once I entered into the long-term program. I also attended groups, where I have learned life skills that I’ll take with me when I move into my own housing soon.

AFG really wasn’t a shelter to me, it was a home I always wanted. Yes, we bicker and stuff here and there but its love. It wasn’t about it even being a shelter to me once I got used to it, it was what I made it and I made it a good experience and I love every bit of it. I really can’t wait to have my own home. But I know I’ll cry like a baby. You guys just don’t understand, without AFG I wouldn’t be where I am today. Thank you for being a part of me and taking a toll on me. AFG is there when you have no one else. Thank you for letting me tell my story.

*Name has been changed to protect her confidentiality. 

Graduation Stories: AFG’s high school graduates share their struggles and triumphs

May. 4 2016 | Tags: , , , ,

This spring, high school seniors everywhere will be counting the days until their graduation day. Graduating from high school is an important milestone for every young adult, but for some, the path to graduating is filled with obstacles, like homelessness, violence in their communities, or even exploitation.

Despite these challenges, young women in AFG’s programs get the help and resources they need to walk across the stage with their peers. We are happy to report that for the 16th year in a row, 100% of the high school seniors in our Prevention Program will be doing just that!

This spring, we will be sharing the stories of the young women at AFG who are graduating and beginning the next chapter in their lives. Below is the first story of a young woman determined to succeed.

A Different Path

Meet Tarra. Tarra is 20 years old, currently a resident in AFG’s Shelter, and will be receiving her high school diploma this June. “I was supposed to graduate in 2014, but I did not. I was influenced by the wrong people and I decided that school was not as important at that time, so I didn’t go. But now I’m ready.”

Tarra has been at AFG’s Shelter for a little over a month, and since then, she has been focusing on finishing her high school classes at a nearby charter school so she can finally receive her diploma. “[AFG] provided me with the motivation to want to get up and go to school every day,” Tarra shares, smiling. “High school has been really fun! It’s motivated me to want to graduate, and to get a job.”

A Bright Future

After she graduates, Tarra plans to attend a local community college and become a nurse. “I might be an RN or a traveling nurse – you get to travel to different cities or states where hospitals need nurses,” she explains. Until then, Tarra can’t wait to receive the diploma she worked so hard for, “[I’m looking forward to] grabbing that diploma, seeing my friends and family, and finally getting it done!” she exclaims.

“Pedal For A Purpose” Raises Funds and Awareness for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Jun. 30 2015 | Tags: , , ,

All across the nation, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) is leading a project to facilitate inter-agency collaboration and services supporting homeless youth. In 2014, NAEHYC conducted a needs assessment of youth experiencing homelessness right here in Detroit. The assessment surveyed youth between the ages of 16 and 24 and found that the top three barriers they were facing were access to transportation, clothing, and jobs. In response to the survey and its results, NAEHYC organized a task force to address issues faced by homeless youth, known as the Detroit Task Force on Youth Homelessness.

The Task Force has members from a wide range of programs and services for youth, including schools, youth agencies, homeless coalitions, law enforcement, public policy makers, and many others, who are led by youth from the community. “The Task Force’s main goals are to bridge the gap between the three main barriers youth face and to spread awareness within the community. We try to bring everyone together at the table to provide resources, initiatives, and local policy at a grassroots level to respond the needs of the youth,” Courtney Smith, Detroit Youth Task Force Coordinator and AFG Youth Board Member, explained.

On June 13, the Task Force held “Pedal For A Purpose” to raise funds and awareness around the top barrier faced by youth experiencing homelessness: transportation. The day started with 15 Eastern Michigan University students, alumni, and Ypsilanti locals biking from Ypsilanti to Detroit. After the 40-mile bike ride, the bikers concluded their journey at a community event held here at Alternatives For Girls! Approximately 60 people attended the community-wide awareness event, which include a youth panel discussion facilitated by Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, a speech about youth homelessness in the community from Judge Perkins, and a screening of the film “The Homestretch”.

“A big highlight from the event was the youth panel. What better way to speak about the needs of youth than with the youth themselves? They are the experts in their own lives. Watching the young people come together and have the courage to share their lives with strangers, it was really touching,” Courtney shared. Following the panel, Judge Perkins spoke the importance of supporting young people within the community, through mentorship, and also stressed the importance of not let youth in need fall by the wayside. Finally, the documentary “The Homestretch”, which follows three homeless teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future, was screened. “One young woman shared that the film opened her eyes to things she didn’t even know existed,” Courtney shared.

So far, the event has raised over $1,000 to support access to transportation for homeless youth. “The money raised will go towards providing bikes and transportation options to homeless youth. Because of the conversations we had with services providers and the popularity of bikes in Detroit, we decided to focus on donating bikes, but it really depends on what the service providers needs are,” Courtney explained.

“It was so great to see youth and older people come together for a common cause. There was a lot going on June 13 and for people to come together to raise awareness, it was great and very heartwarming to see that,” Courtney shared. “And we are very thankful that AFG was able to help and host the event. Being an AFG youth board member, it was an honor to be able to help in this way.”

Be sure to follow the Task Force and like them on Facebook to stay up-to-date on their events. If you would like more information or have any questions, contact Patricia Julianelle, NAEHCY’s Director of State Projects and Legal Affairs, at pjulianelle@naehcy.org or Courtney Smith, Detroit Youth Task Force Coordinator, at csmith@naehcy.org.

Expressive Arts Group Helps Relieve Stress

Dec. 22 2014 | Tags: ,

Last winter, the Shelter Department created the Expressive Arts Group, an optional group that meets three Fridays a month and allows the Shelter residents an opportunity to explore their feelings through art.

The idea for the group started after Erika Fox, the Shelter Department’s Counseling Curriculum Coordinator, and her co-worker attended a training on Trauma Intervention. During the training, they learned ways to work with those who have experienced trauma in their lives. “A key element of working with youth who have experienced trauma is focusing on activities that will allow them to express themselves without words. Because when you experience trauma you have trouble accessing your ability to talk about your emotions, art allows you to express your feelings without having to talk about it or explain it,” Erika explained.

The main goals of the group are to relieve stress, allow the young women to express emotions in a safe space, and to build confidence through the act of creating something. Ciara*, one of the Shelter residents who regularly attends the group, has learned firsthand how helpful art can be in expressing and understanding her feelings, “What I like about the Expressive Arts group is that I can express myself with art instead of lashing out when I’m angry,” she shared. Click here to read more.

Since its inception, the group has focused on visual art, especially collages. “We’ve done a lot of collages and those have gone well because they aren’t intimidating for the youth. Since you do not need a lot of artistic talent, it’s a safe way to express yourself without feeling overwhelmed,” Erika explained. In the future, they are planning to do projects based around music, poetry, and even jewelry making. The young women who have attended the groups have really enjoyed the freedom the art projects have given them. Erika shared, “Sometimes it can be hard to get them to participate initially, but once they come they want to keep coming. They respond well to the groups and are really excited about what they create.”

*This name has been changed to protect confidentiality.

AFG Blog: “I can finally begin focusing on myself…”

Dec. 1 2014 | Tags: , ,

Shelter resident, Natashia*, gave the following speech at a recent event for AFG. This is her story, in her own words:  

My name is Natashia* and I am 19 years old. To be an independent young woman nowadays is very unique to me. Normally, you see a lot of women who are very dependent on their other half, which isn’t too healthy. I was living in an apartment with my boyfriend and another roommate. Our roommate didn’t pay her portion of the rent, and so we were evicted. My parents basically disregarded me, and so their home is not welcome to me. As for friends, I choose not to have many because of distractions, so for the few that I do have, they’re all going through something and I don’t need the added stress of their problems as well as my own. My boyfriend and I began living from place to place and eventually ended up living in a storage unit. During this time, I had a job but I didn’t have any transportation so I was walking one and a half hours to work each direction, sometimes in the dark. I went wrong moving in with my boyfriend too soon, and even though he had (or so it seemed), all of his stuff together, as humans, we tend to forget that any situation or circumstance isn’t certain; it can change in an instant as my life recently did.

A few weeks ago, I felt like I had completely lost almost all control I had over my life and the events that took place in it. I wanted to just lay down somewhere and give up. But my conscious mind told me that giving up doesn’t solve any problem; it never has and it never will. So I kept pushing through. Then I was referred to AFG by my boyfriend’s mother. Boy, that was the last thing I wanted to do. My perception of a shelter was twisted and so I didn’t see any way that just having a bed for a few hours could help me get my life together. Imagine my surprise once I arrived! Alternatives For Girls is nothing like I could have ever imagined, and in a few days I was finally able to relax and clear my head.

Last week, I was accepted to the Transition to Independent Living Program at AFG! This program will be beneficial towards helping me reach that stability that I’ve somehow lost in my life. I can finally begin focusing on myself and what I really want to accomplish. I want to get back in school and take up psychology and marketing. I want to someday help others and give them the chance to straighten out their problems and reach the goals that they once thought impossible, just as AFG has so far done for me. All of the one and a half hour walks to work and back, the studying at the library, the stress and hardships that I have and may have to continue facing in the future will only make my success that much more to be proud of.

My short-term goals consist of me getting a job and enrolling in school so that I can set the course for my 2-year goal, which is where I would like to have a stable, good job, a better relationship with family and friends, and to have a clear view of how I want my life to go from there on. I have the motivation and the drive to get to where I need to go and I feel like the AFG program is my set of keys.

*Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.

AFG Blog: “I am possible!”

Sep. 30 2014 | Tags: , ,

On September 23rd, Joy, a Shelter resident, gave this speech at AFG’s “Planting Roots” event.

Hello my name is Joy Evans.

21 years ago I celebrated my first birthday in a women’s battered shelter. At the age of 15 I entered into my first youth homeless program by choice, due to my mother’s neglectful behavior. Throughout my life my mother struggled with addiction which made it hard for her to provide for me. I relied on many shelter programs in several different states throughout my teen years. At the age of 20 I became involved with Alternatives For Girls. I was homeless and found out I was pregnant. I knew I needed to obtain resources to maintain financial independence, and gain life and parenting skills. I needed assistance with prenatal care, a safe place to help with my pregnancy, and education on newborn care.

Once I became a resident at Alternatives For Girls I obtained proper insurance, prenatal vitamins, and scheduled prenatal appointments with an OB/GYN. In August, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl! Since beginning this new chapter of motherhood I still rely on the support system and resources at AFG. While at AFG I was able to obtain a job, save up money, and I am currently transitioning into my own apartment! I will also be attending online college in the winter to obtain my associates degree. I am now on a new path to maintain a stable life for me and my daughter.

My future plans are to have two jobs when my daughter enters Head Start. Attend university when my daughter enters elementary and earn a master’s degree before she enters high school. By the time she enters middle school I would like to buy my first house which will be my family home and I hope to have it paid off by the time she graduates college and pass it down to her. Because I don’t have a family home to visit, I would love to be able to provide that to her. I love to give and teach to others and I strive to be the solution to many social problems such as high school drop outs and youth homelessness. I feel passionate about these issues because I overcame them myself, and as a result, I’ve had so many opportunities and doors open for me.

Thanks to the supportive staff members at AFG, especially the shelter director Ms. Carolyn, the shelter manager Ms. Shelia, and my case planner Ms. Carmen, I’ve been able to utilize the skills I’ve learned in order to maintain an independent lifestyle. In the last 9 months, I’ve completed the goals I set for myself when I came to AFG: obtaining a job, saving money, and finding my own apartment! I would like to thank AFG for allowing me into the program. Over time I’ve learned “when you think something is impossible… simply say I AM POSSIBLE!” Thank you.