Natasha Slesnick, Founder
We serve an average of 25-30 youth per day and met the needs of 531 unduplicated youth in 2013. We believe drop-in centers offer a bridge from the streets to the mainstream beyond outreach alone. They are unstructured and provide immediate services, such as food, clothing, showers, laundry, and bus passes. We focus on building trust with youth so they are more willing to accept support and resources when they are needed. As both service providers and researchers, we use empirically supported interventions based upon theories of human development and social engagement.
We serve youth between the ages of 14 to 24 who meet the McKinney-Vento Act (2002) definition of homelessness. The McKinney- Vento Act (2002) defines homeless youths as those who lack a fixed, regular, and nighttime residence; and includes: I) those who are sharing the housing of other persons due to loss of housing, economic hardship, or a similar reason; are living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations; are living in emergency or traditional shelters, ii) have primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodations for human beings, iii) are living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations or similar settings. We intervene with youth who are engaged from the streets and who most often do not have the option of returning to a family's home and who do not feel comfortable using shelters or other service programs.
It took him almost two months to apply, but Charles Childs II will be taking recording engineering classes at Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL this year. Though Charles already holds a culinary degree, his passion has always been making and recording music. A few months ago, he learned about the university from a friend who was taking their online classes. At the time, Charles says that he was struggling with finding a career path that was right for him: "I wasn't caring about my life...I wasn't planning on going to college, but I love music. This is something I've always wanted to do." With a fire ignited inside him, Charles spent weeks at the STAR House researching grants and financial aid opportunities that he was eligible for. Eventually, he learned that he qualified for money from FASFA and an educational grant from the military because his father was a retired marine. After he sent the paperwork to Full Sail, he started to worry: "I didn't think I would be accepted. All I have is a GED, but I just did everything (the application) required and I got in!" A few days after he was accepted, his free apple computer and recording equipment arrived in the mail. Charles' flight is only a few days away and he says that he is more excited than nervous to start school and move to a new city. Even though his endeavors take him far from he will take the support he gained at the STAR House with him to Florida: "There have been times when I didn't have anything. All the resources (the STAR House) had, I used...They helped me get into school. They helped me apply and fax over my paperwork." We are proud of Charles for taking the courage to move out of state on his own and follow his dreams. He has a lot of studying and hard work ahead of him, but we trust his determination will take him far.