It Takes a Village
"There are many different ways of being there for homeless youth - sometimes it's giving them space, sometimes it's a pat on the back, sometimes it's just helping them find a pair of jeans that fit."
- Lynn, volunteer
Volunteers are at the heart of Outreach. In 2018, over 50 individuals volunteered 2,210 hours to support homeless youth: cooking breakfast, working in the office, helping with laundry, and much more.
2018 was the first full year in the new Program Center, and while there were many new improvements (check out that clothing pantry and the big, commercial kitchen!) much stayed the same about the volunteer experience. It’s still all about building relationships and walking alongside youth as they make the journey to stability.
Joni spends a lot of her time at Outreach helping youth in the clothing pantry.
Joni, who often volunteers with her husband, was a bit nervous early on about how she would connect with youth who are homeless. “I don’t have a counseling degree,” she stated. “How would I know what to say?” Fortunately, Joni found that you don’t have to have special training or a God-given gift to be able to make a real difference in the lives of youth at Outreach. “I go in with a learning heart, and I ask for advice. The staff at Outreach are so inviting and helpful. They make it an easy on-ramp to get involved.”
It’s still all about building relationships and walking alongside youth as they make the journey to stability.
Another volunteer, Lynn, hopes that her involvement with youth will help them see that there is a way through their current circumstances. She knows firsthand what many youth are experiencing. Both of her parents were drug addicts and, as she says, “The only reason I didn’t end up homeless is because my grandparents put a roof over my head.”
Volunteering at Outreach can mean a lot of things. But most of all, it means dedicating time to be present with youth.
Now retired, Lynn and her husband make a two-hour round trip once a week to volunteer at Outreach. She is especially struck by the commitment of the Outreach staff. “It’s just a blessing to watch the staff interact with the youth and to see how they respond. You can see that it’s not just a job to them; they’ve built a community.” Lynn knows it takes time to build trust, and she recognizes the need to respect each youth’s space, which may be different from one week to the next. “When one of the young women allows me to hold her baby,” Lynn shares, “that’s a big thing. That takes a lot of trust.”
Megan Rhea is the Volunteer Manager at Outreach.