John R. Cottrell, Chief Operating Officer, The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport, Inc.
During the past several years, the plight of homeless youth has received increased attention in Connecticut. The Homeless Youth Act passed in 2010 put into motion a focused initiative to identify and address the needs of these young people. I am pleased to say that this movement is gaining traction and I am confident that we will recognize significant gains in services available to this population in the near future.
While insuring that homeless youth have access to needed services is critically important, what may be an even a bigger challenge is to find ways to prevent homelessness. Recently a study of homeless youth in Connecticut titled “Invisible No More” was completed by Derrick M. Gordon, Ph. D. and Bronwyn A. Hunter, Ph. D. of The Consultation Center at the Yale School of Medicine. Of the 98 young people interviewed, 50% reported family contact with the Department of Children and Families, 17% reported having a Families with Service Needs petition filed against them, 50% were arrested at least once in their lifetime and 39% reported having been incarcerated in jail, prison, juvenile detention or a residential facility. It appears clear that young people immersed in these systems are at high risk of becoming homeless at some time in their lives.
Since 1975, The Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport has been providing services which are aimed at diverting youth and their families away from the child welfare and juvenile justice systems through the Janus Center for Youth in Crisis. Through the use of a 24-hour crisis hotline staffed by mobile crisis workers we are able to quickly respond to families and youth before the situation gets out of hand, making reconciliation that much more difficult.
I am confident that if there were additional “centers” around the state focusing on diversion we would see a significant reduction in the number of homeless youth moving forward.
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