Friday, February 25, 2011

TROUBLED YOUTH SHELTER: Rainbow House director responds to criticisms

COLUMBIA, 2/25/11  (Beat Byte) -- On the heals of various failed First Ward projects, including the Heibel-March store renovation and a project to sell new, low-income houses that proved overpriced, Central Missouri Community Action unveiled plans to construct at 5-unit, troubled youth shelter across from Hickman High School adjacent to a residential neighborhood. 
Though neighbors have complained loudly and repeatedly, the plan has moved forward as a partnership with Rainbow House.

Rainbow House executive director Jan Stock (left) responded to the criticisms after documents revealed the shelter's mostly-taxpayer funded price$600,000 minimum -- and a University of Missouri study recommended better, more cost effective ways to help troubled kids. 
"Rainbow House is proud to partner with CMCA who will provide the future home for our transitional living program for homeless youth.  In the past year 85 youth applied to the program, and 61 of them were placed on a waiting list because we can only serve 8 youth at a time in a 21 month program. 
"In 2010, the TLP provided the following services to 25 youth total (ages 16-21): transitional housing, counseling, linkage to substance abuse treatment, life skills training, linkage to employment and vocational training, mentoring, and enrollment in school or GED classes. 14 (56% youth served) youth obtained their GED or high school diploma by the time they left the TLP. 12 (48% youth served) youth obtained employment during their stay in the TLP. 17 (70% of discharged youth) youth moved in to safe, stable housing at the time of discharge from the TLP.
"Your reference to 'multisytemic therapy' in relationship to the youth served in the transitional living program is somewhat inaccurate. 
"According to the National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention, 'Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is an intensive family- and community-based treatment that targets high risk juvenile offenders (ages 12 – 17) and their families.  
"Its methods help change the way these adolescents function in their own home, school, and neighborhood environments by promoting positive social behavior and decreasing antisocial behavior, including substance use.
"The major goal of MST is to empower parents/caregivers to address the difficulties that arise in raising teenagers and to empower youth to cope with family, peer, school, and neighborhood problems. Through support and skill-building, the therapist places developmentally appropriate demands for responsible behavior on the adolescent and family. Intervention strategies are integrated into a social ecological context and include strategic family therapy, structural family therapy, behavioral parent training, and cognitive behavior therapies.' 
"Rainbow House recently started a 'Teen Emergency Shelter' which more clearly addresses the population referred to in the definition of MST (age 12-17).  This is a 21-day program that offers services to the individual youth and his/her family as stated in the 'major goals' of multisystemic therapy.  The biggest obstacle we have run into so far is parent participation. 
Many of these youth are coming to our program because they have no parent or caregiver who is willing to be responsible for them, or in most cases who is willing to remain a part of the youth’s life; thus, they come to our homeless youth program without a 'home' or 'family.' 
Their family becomes the homeless youth program staff, school personnel, counselors, youth peers in the program, and other persons that become a part of the 'system' that advocates for good choices and healthy productive physical, emotional, social, academic, and spiritual growth. This age group will not be housed in the CMCA building. 
"CMCA should be commended for their part in helping the transitional living program youth by providing them a physical place to call 'home,' if only for a while.  It is my belief that our community has a homeless youth issue, and Rainbow House is extremely thankful not only to CMCA, but to Phoenix Program, counselors at the junior high and high schools, Columbia Housing Authority, Youth Community Coalition, Columbia Youth Builds, The Empowerment Zone, Job Point, and the many individuals and businesses that have embraced our program with gifts of time, goods and financial contributions.  
"The community is the 'family' of these youth, and they will learn to be productive individuals because they feel the loving embrace of so many people who care." 

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