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Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca Honors November is Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month

Contact: Wendy Hammond, Open Doors Case Worker, Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca
Email: whammond@fcsith.org Phone: 607-273-7494

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Tompkins County, NY– November is National Runaway and Homeless Youth Awareness Month. In 2015, researchers from the Learning Web and Cornell University estimated that there are hundreds of homeless youth and young adults living in Tompkins County. Youth homelessness is often an invisible phenomenon—there are currently no emergency youth shelters for youth under 18 years of age in Tompkins County, and many youths choose to couch-surf or live in other unstable, inadequate situations, such as in cars, abandoned buildings, or on the streets. Youth in unstable housing situations are at high risk of commercial sexual exploitation in order to survive on the streets—studies show that 60 percent of youth who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation are also homeless.

Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca’s Open Doors Program supports youth between ages of 12 and 21 who have run away or are at risk of running away from home. Open Doors provides these youth with food, hygiene items, clothing, transportation, short stays in host homes, and a safe non-judgmental space to discuss their situation and options. The aim of Open Doors is to reunite youth with their families and loved ones, or place youth in a family setting when going home is not an option. Open Doors also provides counseling, referrals, and general support to families who are either at a breaking point in a parent-teen conflict or are providing housing for youth who need help with housing, education, and/or employment.

During the month of November, Open Doors will be partnering with the Learning Web and the Advocacy Center to visit Tompkins County high schools and share information about the local services available to runaway and homeless youth. On November 29 at 7 pm, Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca and the Learning Web will be hosting a free screening of the Emmy Award-winning film “The Homestretch” at Cinemopolis. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion about homelessness in Tompkins County with local leaders: Mustafaa Ali of F&CS, Devon Ritz Anderson of Planned Parenthood, Naomi Barry of the Advocacy Center, Christine Barksdale of Ithaca Police Department, Aime Hendrix of Tompkins County Youth Services, and Mona Smiley of the Learning Web.

How can you help runaway and homeless youth in our community?

  1. Volunteer as a Host Home—If you have a spare room and an open heart, consider becoming a host home volunteer. Host Home families provide a safe, temporary home for youth who have run away or are homeless. Call Mike Ellis at 607-273-7494 to get involved.
  2. Donate to Family & Children’s Services—All Open Doors services are provided free of charge to youth and families in need. Your support allows us to provide a lifeline to youth in vulnerable situations. Donations can be made online at www.fcsith.org.
  3. Donate Items to the Open Doors Donation Drive—Beginning November 1, we are collecting the following items for our youth: gift cards (for local restaurants and businesses that sell necessities), feminine hygiene products, backpacks, toiletry kits, first aid kits, socks, underwear, and energy bars. Gift donations can be left at the front desk of Family & Children’s Services (127 West MLK/State Street) between 9 am and 6 pm, Monday through Thursday, and 9 am to 4 pm on Friday.

For more information about Family & Children’s Service of Ithaca’s Open Doors program, please call or text 607-288-2348, email opendoors@fcsith.org, or visit www.fcsith.org/opendoors.