Youth Services Milestone Transitional Living Program team were invited to participate in the Point-in-Time count from January 28th – 31st by Volunteers of America Utah. Point-in-Time is a count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons for purposes of data collection, tracking, and service improvement. Milestone staff members were excited to volunteer as they work daily to help young adults who are otherwise homeless into our program to learn how to become self-sufficient, independent and lead productive lives.
Staff members arrived at the Point-in-Time headquarters each day at 3:45 AM where a Point-in-Time coordinator gave the team a general area to scout and meet with people to ask if they would be interested in conducting a survey. The survey would last for approximately 15 minutes and team members would leave and return to headquarters at 6:00 AM.
The experience was unique and a great collective opportunity to foster interagency relationships and meet with the population we serve as they are in the heart of their experiences being homeless. One of the men we met on the route had recently gotten off work and had planned to ride his bicycle around Salt Lake City. He said that he wouldn’t be able to sleep at night because he would either be too cold or he risked being exposed to dangerous situations. It just wasn’t safe. He said that once TRAX started running, he would able to buy a ticket and sleep for a little while before going to his second job. He was very grateful to receive a blanket, socks, hand warmers, water, and food.
Along the route another young man was wandering the streets also stating that he had to stay awake in order to keep warm and be better able to avoid dangerous situations. He had moved from out of town two months ago and moved in with friends in Salt Lake City. His living situation fell through, and he felt his only option was to become homeless. He was grateful to receive a backpack, a blanket, socks, hand warmers, food, and water.
On the second day, staff encountered a young man using a payphone at 7-11. Team members approached him and asked if he would need anything for the night, to which he replied, “No, I’m good. Thank you guys, but I have everything I need tonight.” They later encountered him boarding a TRAX train. Another individual, wandering the platform and asking for money, approached this young man. The young man reached into his wallet and gave the man money and patted him on the back. The man thanked him and commented on how cold it was. The young man reached into the backpack he’d been given the night before and gave the man on the platform an extra warm-weather hat.
Ultimately, this event was an incredible opportunity to learn about the experiences of the homeless population. The insight gained is absolutely priceless and, in many regards, reinforcing of our choice to be involved. We met with people whose fathers were dying of cancer, people who had recently had birthdays, people who had lost their loved ones, people who missed their tribal culture, people who were excited to see family members, and people who had served our country. Cydnie Lacour, Milestone Case Manager, said it best, “This. This is why we do it. This.” This opportunity gave the Milestone Transitional Living team a chance to reconnect with each other. But, mostly, this opportunity gave the team a chance to reconnect with why we are here.
Volunteers of America Utah, The Leonardo, and the State of Utah are presenting the first annual Homeless Youth Forum to initiate a dialog about youth homelessness in Utah. The forum will take place on February 26th from 8am-12pm at The Leonardo. Youth Services staff members will be managing a booth with information available on homeless youth resources, as well as participate in a panel discussion covering the latest issues and trends, identifying resources available for homeless youth in Utah, and sharing best practices to help them succeed. The event will also feature keynote speaker Amy Louttit, Public Policy Associate with the National Network for Youth. Click here for more information on the event.