New Program Could Give Young Homeless People a Hand Up

By: Kim Eiten Email
By: Kim Eiten Email

It is a reality for hundreds of young adults in Central Nebraska: aged out of foster care and no where to go.

They're the invisible population of Hastings.

"I didn't have a house and I thought after school, what am I going to do? So, it was scary," one formally homeless teenager said. She asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

At an age where most are prepping for prom and finals, hundreds of teens and young adults like her are homeless.

"You know how a mosquito bites you? How it's always just there? You can't get rid of it, the itch stuff," the teen said. "It's the same thing. Even though I was doing homework, I was at school, I was still thinking about it. I don't know where I am going to go home today."

There are many like this young woman, and a new program could give them a place to call home.

"It's safe place where these young people could go and they could be taught some independent living skills, get some of life's answers," CASA Executive Director RuAnn Root said.

That's CASA'a goal. It is currently in the process of raising funds to renovate Downtown Hastings Maryland Building, located at 7th and Lincoln Street.

CASA is turning it into eleven apartments for homeless young people aged 19 to 24.

"These kids have had disruptive lives. They don't have anybody that loves them unconditionally, and that's why this program is going to be vital for their success," Root said.

But, it has its challenges. One of those challenges is getting those who could use a hand up to come forward and ask for help.

"You don't know who to ask. You don't know who to trust," Root said. "They are kind of silent and you have to look for them because they're in our community."

She said in a community like Hastings, this is a hidden problem. Many of the affected teens are not out on the streets.

They're bouncing from couch to couch, often blending in with their teenage peers.

"There's peer pressure to blend in, be like everybody else. You've got to all wear the same clothes, the same shoes, wear the same hair style," Root said. "And, if you don't have a mom and a dad or you don't have those fancy clothes, you just hope that you make it through."

Making it through could get just a little bit easier. It is something the formally homeless teen said could have helped her get by.

"I think a program like that will give kids hope, not just to stay in school, but look for the future," she said.

CASA expects the new facility to be up and running in September 2013.


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