Reflections on our First Anniversary
BEFORE 2015– How did youth find supportive services? Word of mouth was most common; youth asked other street youth for recommendations. Chance encounters with supportive adults such as outreach workers who offered support or advice was another source. Service Professionals who routinely encountered youth, such as librarians and teachers, were less equipped to assist vulnerable students because a county wide directory of service providers was not available.
Since the 2015 release of the OCLA’s 2015 Countywide Directory of Services for Homeless Youth and the WIN mobile app- The 2015 Directory was fully distributed… the demand exceeded our publication capacity. Librarians throughout the City and County of Los Angeles, as well as staff at all LA County school districts have had access to the comprehensive directory of service providers. Homeless youth and outreach workers alike began to download the WIN app or access listed resources through its web version hosted on this website. Developed with the input of street youth around the county, youth guided the name and logo selection, the choice of service categories, and challenged us to allow users to access the app anonymously. Furthering youth trust, WIN’s database includes providers and programs that accept youth without a referral. Post launch we have regularly outreached to youth in centers introduce them to WIN and its ability to empower them to locate services whenever and wherever they need support.
ONE YEAR LATER- We have received enormous requests for Directory republication even as we also have a need to update it. We are now preparing for the publication of the2017 Directory. Street youth have continued to advise us on needed improvements to WIN which led to a new release in May 2016. This latest edition includes a new category: MORE which connects youth to free services such as haircuts, laundry, showers, classes and Wi-Fi. Please see the website homepage carousel feature article for a more detailed description of the other new features!) We have received county recognition, aligned in-kind and professional support, and most importantly we are getting the word out although more needs to be done. (Read our inaugural newsletter which presents an overarching review of the accomplishments of the past year!)
THE YEAR AHEAD-We celebrate our first year while we continue to look ahead. We know we need to speed up the mobile version of WIN- which means bringing in a professional consultant to work with our volunteer leadership, evaluate its performance and provide a roadmap for performance enhancement. We will be exploring how our back-end data collection can inform national understanding of the needs of homeless youth. And we can no longer limit our outreach to street youth alone so must design new ways to reach other resource insecure youth- From the beginning, we focused our efforts on young people who were living on the streets and unconnected to a caring adult, even while we rejected the narrow HUD definition of homelessness in favor of the broader, more realistic Department of Education’s definition which considers a young person homeless even if they are couch surfing, or sleeping on someone else’s floor. Seven months after we released the WIN app, Prof Crutchfield of Cal State Long Beach released her report that 1/10 Cal State students are homeless. We will be prioritizing ways we can raise awareness about WIN amongst resource insecure/homeless students at community colleges, universities, and vocational schools.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?– Volunteer with us, we need your ideas, time and support to reach more youth! Walk in the November 19th, United Way HOMEWALK, Host a Phoneraiser to benefit LA’s homeless Youth, or volunteer at a local youth dropin center or shelter.