Youth Services chosen for Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program

Youth Services is excited to announce a new project to end youth homelessness in our community!  Three years ago Youth Services staff and clients worked with local and state partners to apply for the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP).  Vermont was among 11 other communities in the U.S. chosen to test out intervention that address the complex factors faced by youth and young adults who are without a safe place to call home.

According to Executive Director, Bradbury-Carlin, Youth Services staff and clients had a profound impact on the formation and successful application by Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs to HUD.  From serving on state-level committees and work groups, supporting youth to join the state Youth Action Board, to conducting focus groups and analyzing data, Youth Services staff and clients were instrumental in this funding coming to Vermont.

Now officially a host for the federally-funded Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, Youth Services is one of ten organizations implementing projects to prevent and end youth homelessness in Vermont.  Youth homelessness is a complex social issue, especially in this state.  Vermont’s rurality, which is part of the fabric of our identity, combined with the lack of transportation, youth-friendly vocational opportunities, youth-centered public infrastructure and spotty internet and cell service make it hard for many young people to sustainably transition to independent housing and access resources.

“Through the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project we heard from Vermont youth that they face many challenges that contribute to and perpetuate housing insecurity and homelessness,” stated Bradbury-Carlin.  “They described facing stigma because of their age or socioeconomic status, a lack of permanent connections such as trusted non-paid adults that they can fall back on in times of need, challenges finding stable and non-exploitative employment, unsustainable transition plans from foster care and a lack of clarity around how to get help,” he explained.  “We’re excited to delve into this project and we definitely have our work cut out for us!”

Youth Services YHDP transitional housing projects will be situated in Bellows Falls and Brattleboro and Rapid Re-housing vouchers will be awarded to youth throughout Windham County.

For more information about support for youth experiencing housing instability or homelessness, to learn about youth homelessness in our community, call (802) 258-0361 or visit our web pages.

 

See reports below for more details: 

Youth Homelessness Prevention Plan Committee Application to HUD

Youth Engagement Report

Friends For Change innovates virtually during COVID-19

Youth Services’ play-based after school club, Friends For Change, was recently recognized for innovation during the pandemic at a virtual forum hosted Vermont Afterschool, Inc. Comprised of afterschool programs, state agencies, policy makers and funders, the forum showcased ways that programs are stepping forward in all kinds of important and creative ways to extend supports to children, youth and families in their local communities.

Emilie Kornheiser, Youth Services’ Director of Workforce Development described her program’s transition from a face-to-face youth-led/adult guided, trauma-informed club in Bellows Falls to one where staff initially filling a “first responder” role, ensuring that disconnected youth had everything from healthy food to internet access to toilet paper to over the course of a month, the group successfully transitioning to a virtually connected, social emotional intelligence play-based group.

 “I’ve been blown away with the capacity of our team,” Kornheiser related, as she described not only the daily check-ins and school-work assistance that one would expect but nature walks on the phone to motivate the youth to get outdoors, virtual scavenger hunts in museums and deep emotional circles which provide the space for participants to mourn the changed landscape of their lives.  “Somehow staff were able to take that spirit and translate it into the work they were doing virtually,” she said.

 Because the club has been designed for and by youth who have stories of resiliency, Friends for Change provides programming specifically for youth who have experienced trauma associated with poverty, discrimination, and or experiences with foster care and/or family instability. Providing space for youth to talk with one another about issues they care deeply about has always been a hallmark of the group whose members range in age from elementary through high school. That includes validation of their gender identity and feelings of isolation which they may not be able to safely share at home.

“Sometimes our team and the other youth group members are the only people recognizing these youth in their own gender identity,” said Kornheiser. “When there isn’t a pandemic going on, this is an absolute lifeline; during COVID, it can be a life or death support that we are giving!  So this is some of the most important work that we’re doing,” she explained.

Download Youth Services’ Summer Resources Calendar 2020

Area schools have taken their classes on-line but many summer camps are  holding out hope that they’ll be able to be in session this summer, most likely with some adaptations to ensure safety for all involved (the children, family members, administrators and camp counselors).

Youth Services published its Summer Resources Calendar 2020 in April, not knowing how many of the camps listed would actually be in session come June.

“Parents and grandparents really depend on area summer camps to provide structured play and learning during the summertime as  well as childcare while parents are working,” notes Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Youth Services’ Executive Director.  “We’re hoping that as COVID-19 testing becomes more widespread, it will allow at least some camps in Windham County to be able to open this summer,” stated Bradbury-Carlin. “Fortunately, summer camps know all about reinvention and putting the needs of the families it serves first!”

Summer Camp listings on the Calendar cover a range of ages and interests, from circus arts, to music, nature and tennis, as well as overnight camps such as Camp Waubanong and Green Mountain Camp for Girls.

Please contact individual camps for the latest information on openings/closings. Youth Services  is maintaining an updated list on this webpage below.

The Summer Camp Calendar is sponsored by Youth Services Pacesetters: The Richards Group, Brattleboro Subaru, and GS Precision.

Download or print:

Original 2020 Summer Camp Calendar Listing

 Update Summer Camp Calendar Listing as of 5-28

Summer Jobs Listing

 

Collaboration with BMAC heightens aware of people who are homeless

Youth Services, which provides two transitional shelters in Windham County for homeless and unsafely-housed young adults, has collaborated with The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) and four other nonprofits, around two art exhibits intended to heighten awareness and foster constructive dialogue about local homelessness.

“Jaime and Chocolate”

The two exhibits planned to be on view at BMAC from March 14 to June 14 but are temporarily closed until further notice due to COVID-19.

Steven Kinder: 552,830” consists of larger-than-life portraits of people experiencing homelessness in New York City, accompanied by Kinder’s sketchbooks, working photographs, and paraphernalia that the people featured in the portraits gave or sold to Kinder, such as cardboard signs and collection cups. The exhibition title refers to the number of people who experienced homelessness in the United States in 2018.

Additionally there is an exhibition of photographs, video, and written narratives developed in collaboration with Groundworks Collaborative called “Coffee & Conversation: Stories of Homelessness,” an updated version of a 2015 project that brought together Brattleboro residents experiencing homelessness with those who have stable housing.

For the exhibits and a series of related events, BMAC is collaborating with Groundworks CollaborativeYouth ServicesSoutheastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA)Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, and the Town of Brattleboro.

“Our community has invested so much into having difficult conversations about social issues in order to find real-world solutions,” said Christine Linn, Youth Development Director at Youth Services.  “And so often it can be hard for individuals to view people experiencing homelessness with empathy, despite the advocacy of local agencies and participation of people experiencing homelessness themselves.”

“The BMAC exhibits and related events are a profound means for the public to witness the humanity of individuals experiencing homelessness–to not just hear about the issues but, hopefully, to be emotionally connected with individuals’ journeys,” explained Linn.

“Over the past four years, BMAC has found that one of the ways we can be of greatest value to our community is by presenting artwork that serves as a platform for the exploration of important social issues,” said BMAC Director Danny Lichtenfeld. “Projects like these deepen BMAC’s connections within our community, and they allow us to serve as a center of discussion and creative solution-making.”

The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center is closed until further notice. In normal times, it is open 11-5 every day except Tuesday. Regular admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $4 for students. Members and children 18 and under are admitted free of charge. For updates on expected re-opening of the gallleries, visit www.brattleboromuseum.org.

Meanwhile, click here to see a catalog of Steven Kinder’s portraits.

Youth Services Case Manager Honored for Two Decades of Service

Patrick Fleming 

Patrick Fleming, a Court Diversion case manager for Youth Services since 1981, was recently honored by the organization for his nearly two decades of restorative justice work in Windham County.

Youth Services’ Court Diversion program involves victims, offenders, and community members in a constructive process that helps offenders repair the harm to victims and the community, according to Sally Struble, Youth Services’ Director of Restorative Justice programs. Every year, this one program works with close to 300 referrals.

“Patrick is the glue between our volunteer panelists and the offenders,” Struble explained, describing how once the State’s Attorney offers Diversion to adults charged with committing a crime or youth charged with being delinquent, Fleming meets with both the offender and the volunteer panels to prepare for one or more sessions together.

“Patrick’s skill and commitment to the goals of the program make him an outstanding liaison,” Struble said. “Our hope, realized in 90 percent of his cases, is that the offender not only learn from their mistakes, but also make different choices in the future.” After successful completion of the Diversion program, the original charge is dismissed, she explained.

“While being charged with a crime is often experienced by the client as a mini-tragedy, more often than not they avail themselves, with the support of the panel, in finding the silver lining,” Fleming attested. “In many cases that means re-evaluating their behaviors,” he stated. “Being able to refer them for counseling or substance use treatment as part of their diversion agreement is very helpful in this process,” Fleming admitted.”

The entire process takes on average between 60-90 days from start to finish, Fleming said. Describing how in an average week he prepares five distinct panels of trained community volunteers in Brattleboro and one in Bellows Falls. The case manager credits the Diversion Board members, who meet only once a month to hear cases, with possessing a diverse skill set that when combined is like a carefully tuned orchestra.  “I’m in awe of our volunteers. They hit all the notes and I always end up learning from them!” Fleming exclaimed.

Fleming described how powerful it is for clients to grapple with what they did and how it impacted others.“Unlike pleading guilty, paying a fine and getting a record, our participants have to engage with their actions and come to terms with the human elements,” Fleming emphasized,

What keeps Fleming doing this work case after case, year after year? “I’m interested in people. I’m interested in the challenges each case presents,” he stated. “When our participants comprehend that their life is out of balance and that there is an opportunity to set something right, take responsibility, make this crisis into something positive, we get to witness a truly transformative change for the better,” he said.

“What more can one ask for?” Fleming enthused. “Being an agent of change is the best feeling, treating them with respect and kindness in the process. Helping people to become healthier- that’s everyone’s goal.”

For more information on becoming a Youth Services Court Diversion board member, contact Sally Struble, Director of Restorative Justice at Youth Services at 802-257-0361 or email info@youthservicesinc.org.

Vickie Case inducted into Youth Services’ Hall of Fame

Vickie Case,  a Youth Services Board member for 15 years, was recently inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame, designated as “Envoy Extraordinaire” for her role as a valuable link to the Windham County communities.

Vickie Case, Inductee, Youth Services’ Hall of Fame

The award ceremony at Duo Restaurant in December included moving testimonials from Youth Services Executive Director Russell Bradbury-Carlin, and Board President, Rachel Selsky.

According to Youth Services Executive Director, Russell Bradbury-Carlin, the Hall of Fame is a way for Youth Services to recognize community members like Case who make outstanding and sustained contributions to youth development and the agency’s outreach. “Vickie is a magnet,” Bradbury-Carlin hypothesized.  “She attracts people’s attention and interests.  This is why she is so good in all of the roles she plays in the community and why we consider her an “envoy extraordinaire” for Youth Services,” he said.

Case is the fourth inductee to Youth Services’ Hall of Fame, joining the late Ben Underhill, a former board member who was honored with the MVP Award; former board member Liz Richards, who was recognized with the Community Ambassador Award; and court diversion volunteer Marilyn Buhlmann, who was inducted as its first Restorative Justice Advocate.

According to Board President Rachel Selsky, Case is a ‘true believer’ in Youth Services’ mission and isn’t shy about convincing others of the value of supporting Youth Services as part of their marketing budgets. “Vickie generated countless new event sponsorships for Youth Services through contacts she had through her work then in radio advertising. “Thanks to Vickie’s persuasive powers, numerous businesses came around to seeing it as a win-win situation and many continue to support us today as a result of her introductions,” Selsky said.

To find out how to join Vickie in this important work to support our youth and families, please call Youth Services at (802) 257-0361 or email info@youthservicesinc.org

Affordable housing development in Brattleboro reserves four apartments for Youth Services’ clients in transition

Windham & Windsor Housing Trust celebrated its new downtown development at 29 Flat St., otherwise known as the Snow Block. The new apartment building  creates 23 new homes ranging from studio to two-bedroom apartments, with the goal of revitalizing a portion of the downtown area.

Youth Services has four apartments dedicated to its clients with an opportunity to provide services on site.

“We are delighted by our partnership with Youth Services at the Snow Block,” said Executive Director Elizabeth Bridgewater. “Young people often have the hardest time getting their first apartment and the Snow Block will provide a home and support at a critical point in a young person’s life to set them up for success now and in the future.

Funding for the project includes monies from the state’s Housing for All Revenue Bond (HRB), which was passed into law in 2017.

“The Snow Block, located in downtown Brattleboro, has met a housing need that continues to grow throughout Vermont,” said Gov. Phil Scott in a statement. “And with both millennials and our aging populations looking to live in walkable communities close to shopping and access to public transportation, having housing they can afford in vibrant downtowns is critical. I’m so pleased our housing bond is making that possible in Brattleboro and in our downtowns across Vermont.”

Funding totaling over $7 million from numerous sources was raised to cover the total development costs. Almost $5 million came through Housing Tax Credits administered by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) and purchased by People’s United Bank.

“The Snow Block is the latest example of Windham & Windsor Housing Trust’s vision of a vibrant downtown Brattleboro where everyone in the community can afford their housing,” said VHFA Executive Director Maura Collins. “This building will strengthen the health, connections, and financial stability of residents today and well into the future.”

“People’s United Bank is pleased to have been a major investor in the Snow Block and we are thrilled with our long term relationship with Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, said People’s United Bank Vice-President and CRA Officer Art Casavant. “This important project reflects the power harnessed in Vermont in support of low and moderate income communities and we look forward to the occupancy of this vibrant new housing space.”

For information about any of WWHT’s apartments or to learn how to apply for housing, call 802-254-4604.

 

Brattleboro’s Youth-Led Business Seeks Volunteer Mentors: Experience with design, business, entrepreneurship or sales especially needed

Youth Services is recruiting additional volunteer mentors for its youth-led enterprise, DemoGraphix, a business-to-business screen-printing company in Brattleboro, Vermont.

The employees, ages 12-24, have been instrumental in readying the business to open this month, building a strong team, selecting the name and designing a logo, training on the screen-press, established policies, a pricing structure and a marketing plan, all with the input of adult mentors, according to Emile Kornheiser, Youth Services’ director of Workforce Development.

Employees of DemoGraphix can make and sell their own designs as well as be employed by the company, Kornheiser explained. Launched earlier this year, the company employs young people in every aspect of the business— design, printing, shipping, customer service, marketing and accounting.  “DemoGraphix is dedicated to delivering job skills for these young people and fostering entrepreneurship and community connections,” stated Kornheiser.

 Mentors join a caring, fun team of adults who support the youth both at the screen printing shop and through one-on-one meetings. “The mentors are an integral part of the overall structure which guarantees the success of our outcomes,” said Kornheiser. “Our participants learn how to be a member of a team in a connected, supportive environment, learning from adults who are on the other side of so much of what they’re going through,” Kornheiser explained. 

Youth Services asks for a commitment of four hours per month, for one year, as well as attendance at quarterly trainings. There is no one profile for a successful mentor; excellent mentors can all have different backgrounds and be different ages, confirmed Kornheiser, who suggested scheduling an initial visit or a meeting as a way to determine a good fit before formally applying.  “What all our mentors share in common is an interest in working with young people and a willingness to share their expertise,” Kornheiser said.

A one-year commitment is requested from volunteer mentors; they must be at least 21 years old; provide references and pass a background check.  Kornheiser stressed that DemoGraphix mentors must be dependable and consistent in the minimum commitment: attending two group meetings a month, typically from 4-6 pm on Wednesday afternoons at the Printmakers Co-op space in Brattleboro.

The description for mentors lists as desired qualities being a willing listener, patience and flexibility. Youth Services offers quarterly ongoing trainings for mentors and an optional mentor support group.

To learn more about joining DemoGraphix as a mentor, visit email info@youthservicesinc.org or call (802) 257-0361 x138. For screen printing estimates, email: demographixvt@gmail.com or call 802-275-7871.

View application materials to become a mentor

 

The Reverend Dr. James Kowalski joins Youth Services Board

The Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski, a retired Episcopal priest who is a long-time second home owner in Townshend, VT, recently joined 13 other community members in serving on Youth Services’ board of directors. Through nineteen programs ranging from restorative justice, to mentoring, transitional living, workforce development and therapeutic case management, the nonprofit agency helps Windham County thrive.

Dr. James A. Kowalski

For the past 15 years, Dr. Kowalski served as Dean of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. Prior to that, he had parishes in Massachusetts and Newtown, Hartford and Darien, Connecticut. During that time, Kowalski helped found a Youth Services in Newtown, CT which focused on positive youth development, adolescent depression and suicide prevention. He was also key in launching the Shepherd’s Center, a teen pregnancy prevention and pre-Head Start childcare facility in Hartford, CT.

With years of experience serving on Boards for agencies focused on low-income housing, supportive housing, hospital oversight and community mental health, Kowalski brings crucial insights and background to the Youth Services board, according to Rachel Selsky, board president.

Selsky said they are fortunate to have his vast experience when they are developing strategic plans for the future of the organization as well as fundraising.

“Jim’s deep understanding of the many challenges facing young people and the homeless will be a tremendous asset to the board,” Selsky predicted.

As an extension of his ministry, Kowalski was a volunteer counselor at Planned Parenthood in Burlington, where he also was a chaplain at UVM and did clinical training at the medical center and its outpatient psychiatric clinic.

Rev. James Kowalski resides in Townshend with his wife, Dr. Anne Brewer, who works part-time at Grace Cottage Hospital. First exposed to Youth Services by the late board member Stan Holt of Townshend, they became donors many years ago, keeping an eye on the organization as their work took them to other locales.

“We’ve always appreciated what Youth Services was accomplishing in this neck of the woods,” said Kowalski. “Now that I’m in Windham County full-time I look forward to supporting the staff in their work and helping the critical mission of Youth Services to be realized, including its outreach to Townshend,” he stated.

To learn how you can get involved with Youth Services or to refer a person for services, visit youthservicesinc.org or call 802-257-0361.

Brattleboro’s Youth-Led Company Opens Its Doors: Screen Printing Orders Sought from Area Businesses and Organizations

DemoGraphix, a youth-led business-to-business screen-printing company in Brattleboro, Vermont, established by Youth Services earlier this year, has opened its doors for sales, after a six-month start-up period.

The employees, ages 12-24, have selected a name, designed a logo, trained on the screen printing equipment and establishing policies and a pricing structure during that time, in addition to being paired with volunteer mentors with professional skills such as design, running a small business, and marketing.

Having completed several successful test runs, DemoGraphix employees are now ready to market their services and line up printing orders for promotional products on fabric or paper for the fall, according to Emilie Kornheiser, Youth Services’ Director of Workforce Development.

“We believe that people in Brattleboro want to be conscious shoppers, and will support a business like DemoGraphix offering a living wage and better life opportunities for its employees,” explained Kornheiser.

While DemoGraphix can print on any fabric medium, the two most popular items so far are t-shirts and tote bags, according to the company website. Prices depend on the quality of the materials, manufacturing practices, and the complexity of the design but generally range $10-25 dollars for T-shirts and $5-15 for totes. The designers are happy to have a conversation with prospective clients and will provide an estimate in three days or less.

Launched earlier this year, DemoGraphix, which employs youth in every aspect of the business — design, printing, shipping, customer service, marketing and accounting — is dedicated to delivering job skills and fostering entrepreneurship and community connections, stated Kornheiser.

Members of DemoGraphix can make and sell their own designs as well as be employed by the company. “Our participants learn how to be a member of a team in a connected, supportive environment, and then move on with the knowledge to benefit their community and their own work lives,” Kornheiser explained. “We expect that these youth will have marketable skills and good job references when they leave the company,” she said.

This Youth Services program operates out of Brattleboro Printmakers on Elliot Street. Youth Services pairs 12-24 year olds with volunteer mentors with professional skills relevant to the business who are also interested in being a part of a young person’s life. According to Kornheiser, a major goal of our youth-led business initiative is for the participants to get more than just a paycheck.

To learn more about getting involved, email: info@ youthservicesinc.org or call (802) 257-0361 x138. To obtain an estimate for print shop orders (T-shirts, bags, bandanas, aprons, or collectible posters) email: demographixvt@gmail.com with a description of the project or call 802-275-7871.