Runaway Youth Archives - Alternatives For Girls

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“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 or Courtney Smith, Detroit Youth Task Force Coordinator, at

AFG Works to Fight Youth Homelessness with Regional Alliance

Jul. 30 2014 | Tags: , , , , ,

Nationally, approximately 30,000 youth under the age of 18 are homeless and on their own for more than a week every year. [1]

Within 48 hours of running away, a young person is likely to be solicited for prostitution or another form of sexual exploitation. [2] 

Youth ages 13-24 are the least likely of any age group to know that they are infected with HIV. [3]

These are just a few of the staggering statistics about runaway and homeless youth that show the great need for programs that focus on ending the cycle of homelessness and poverty for our nation’s youth.

Here in Detroit, Alternatives For Girls is the only organization uniquely serving girls and women through shelter, outreach and prevention services. In this way, we are working to provide a holistic approaching to ending youth homelessness. As the statistics show, the problem of youth homelessness is vast and needs a broad approach if we hope to solve it. This is why Alternatives For Girls has teamed up with three other agencies in the community with the hope of reaching more individuals and providing a wide array of resources.

Alternatives For Girls, Common Ground, Ruth Ellis Center, and Starfish Family Services have come together to create the Runaway and Homeless Youth Regional Alliance (RHY Regional Alliance). The RHY Regional Alliance is dedicated to providing safe places where youth can access food, shelter, and short and long-term support to help them become self-sufficient and live independently.

The RHY Regional Alliance was created to help serve youth by focusing on building a strong infrastructure for the four partner organizations to better work together. It aims to improve data collection and sharing of information amongst the agencies and to carry out joint efforts to increase public awareness about the challenges faced by disconnected youth in Southeast Michigan.

The four agencies are all focused on the broad goal of serving runaway and homeless youth, but they each have different areas of expertise. The goal of the alliance is to bring these different strengths together to form a powerful partnership.

Alternatives For Girls has gender-specific knowledge and experience in meeting the needs of girls and young women. Our mission is to help homeless and high-risk girls and young women to avoid violence, teen pregnancy and exploitation, and help them to explore and access the support, resources and opportunities necessary to be safe, to grow strong, and to make positive choices in their lives.

Common Ground has expertise in mental health and crisis counseling. Its core purpose is helping people move from crisis to hope.

Ruth Ellis Center has expertise in serving lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. Its mission is to provide short-term and long-term residential safe space and support services for runaway, homeless and at-risk LGBTQ youth in Detroit and Southeastern Michigan.

Starfish Family Services focuses on healthy child development with a service model that recognizes children ultimately depend on strong families and strong communities to succeed. Primary programming areas include early childhood development, mental health and counseling, family supportive services, and youth services.

Alternatives For Girls is proud to be a member of the RHY Regional Alliance and is committed to using this collaborative effort to further our mission of helping homeless and high-risk youth to grow strong and to make positive choices in their lives.

[1] National Alliance to End Homelessness

[2] Family and Youth Services Bureau U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

[3] Family and Youth Services Bureau U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

AFG Heads to Lansing to Advocate for Homeless and Runaway Youth

May. 28 2014 | Tags: , , , ,

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”.