For the first time in Dane County, homeless youth will have a safe, comfortable place to stay when Briarpatch Youth Services begins hosting them Thursday, Oct. 1 at its shelter.
Briarpatch’s facility on Rimrock Road in Madison houses an eight-bed shelter where youth can stay for up to 28 days while working with counselors to find a safe place to live.
Homeless youth under age 18 who are not part of a family seeking shelter cannot stay at the existing shelters serving adult homeless populations.
“The support these youth will get here goes far beyond food, shelter and clothing,” said Jeanne Schneider, Clinical Supervisor & Youth Shelter Manager. “We’ll help them reconnect with school and with their family if that’s a safe option for them. Our staff will also provide individual and family counseling and we’ll connect youth with other services they may need as well.”
An estimated 300 youth in Dane County are homeless every night, couch-surfing, sleeping in cars, staying with unsafe strangers.
“And those are the youth we know of,” said Casey Behrend, Briarpatch’s executive director. “Homeless youth are at higher risk for physical abuse, sexual exploitation, mental health problems, substance abuse, and death.”
It is estimated that 5,000 unaccompanied youth in the U.S. die each year as a result of assault, illness, or suicide
Briarpatch opened the newly built facility on Rimrock Road, which houses its administrative offices and programming space, in 2014.
The agency has been raising funds to open the shelter, and so far counts more than $1.2 million from individuals, foundations, and corporations toward a goal of $3.1 million. Donations to the "Giving Homeless Youth a Chance" campaign will be used to retire the mortgage on the agency’s new facility and to build a reserve fund for shelter operations. To help build momentum for the campaign, an anonymous donor has pledged $150,000 as an opportunity to secure a matching gift of the same amount.
“This is a huge show of support for an agency that has traditionally flown under the radar,” said Cedric Johnson, the agency’s development director. “Reaching our $3.1 million goal and paying off our mortgage will free up $120,000 a year that we can invest in services for youth and families.”
“The need for this shelter is real and the need is now,” Johnson said. “While we’re discussing homelessness in our community, let’s not forget there are 15-year olds sleeping under bridges and they aren’t getting their basic needs met. What becomes of them?”
The "Give Homeless Youth a Chance" campaign still needs volunteers and donations. For more information, contact Johnson at Cedric.Johnson@Briarpatch.org.