City Spotlights Resources for Homeless YouthKatlyn Carter is the news editor. Contact her at [email protected]
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The third Youth Connect resource fair held for the young homeless in Berkeley Monday provided a prime example of outreach from a city many said is more welcoming than other places in which they have found themselves without a roof over their heads.
For 19-year-old Heidi Hays, a Georgia native, the gathering of services and resources, sponsored by Mayor Tom Bates, the Suitcase Clinic and a number of other organizations, was an event unlike any she has seen in other cities.
“Berkeley is a lot more liberal, there’s a lot more resources for homeless youth,” she said. “People don’t look down on it as much.”
The city is unique in offering a one-stop shop for resources geared specifically toward the homeless aged 18 to 25, according to Bates’ senior aide Julie Sinai, who said the event is meant to target an age group that can often fall through the cracks.
“We have services that can reach this age group, we just need to reach out,” she said.
Monday’s event, which drew approximately 30 youth, included representatives from a wide variety of services, from AC Transit, providing reduced-fee transit passes to the Berkeley Public Health Clinic giving HIV tests and the city’s public library signing people up for library cards.
But one thing nearly all the service representatives seemed to agree on was that it takes a different approach to connect with the young homeless than it does to reach the broader demographic.
“They have their own unique needs,” said Terrie Fletcher, a case manager for Youth Emergency Assistance Hostel. “They don’t see themselves in need of long-term services.”
Sinai said the event aims to bring together all the resources young homeless members of the city or those passing through may need and to make it known that the organizations can be trusted to help.
The centrality of all the services and resources gathered at the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church was helpful, according to many who came to get their feet washed, eat dinner or sign up for one of the many resources available.
“In other cities it would be harder to get some of these services, there’s a lot of red tape and bureaucracy,” said 26-year-old Cat Poet, who has been in Berkeley for five years. “In Berkeley, things are more available to people on the streets.”
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