It was fast and there were five at the LA5 annual Fast5 meeting. Following months of applications, reviews, Paul Harris lunches and the process of elimination, April 26 loomed large. First, which would be the five finalists and then, how much support would they garner from Rotary? All told our club stepped up to provide $60,000 to help these organizations, dedicated to aiding homeless youth, continue their good and important work.
The in-person presentations by each entity were compelling. Heather Carmichael of My Friend’s Place described how it has stepped up its mission to end youth homelessness. Serving 1,500 youth annually, they provide food, resources, housing, crisis management and skills training to any youth on the street regardless of circumstance or condition.
Hillsides, a 100 year old entity and runs Youth Moving On, providing continuum of care support services for transition aged youth 16-25, including a peer resource drop-in center, mental health/life skills, housing placement and workforce development. Josh Mathieu mentioned the goal is to bring youth to self-sufficiency, as evidenced by their client’s high internship placement and completion of its career club.
To assist the astounding nearly 1 in 5 homeless community college population, Eric Hubbard of Jovenes described services that help students complete college through cost-of-living support, housing, counseling, and other services. Jovenes model is now the basis for state legislation to assist homeless college age youth throughout California.
On-site mentoring and tutoring homeless and shelter youth grades K- 12 is the basis of School on Wheels, a past Rotary Fast Five awardee. Sinead Chilton said that the program serves 3,500 students annually in whatever type of place they currently live. SOW graduate Victoria Trevino also came and talked about her success now in college through School on Wheels.
The final worthy homeless youth program Safe Place for Youth (SPY) was described by Emily Howard. It provides clients on-site services, case management, health education, employment, housing and internships. This program features a youth run sustainable community garden and sell their gown products monthly at a farm stand at the Venice location.
LA5 members in attendance took out their cell phones for the mobile vote. One vote per member was logged onto the app and sent to LA5 for the final count. After the count, the winners were announced and each came to the podium forward to accept its LA5 contribution.
While all groups were winners that day, Jovenes was the top vote getting and awarded over $17,000 to help it grow and serve even more students.
Among the many realizations gained from hearing about these outstanding, deserving and worthwhile programs, is the appallingly large youth homeless population here in L A County and by extension throughout the state. These groups are at the forefront, meeting the problem head on and working to make young lives better by providing them the means to lead independent and productive lives.
As Rotarians, we recognize our role as part of the solution by annually assisting such dedicated organizations.