Last year, Youth for Change, a non-profit social service agency, received federal funds to facilitate a program that serves homeless and runaway minors. This was a collaborative effort with Butte Behavioral Health who formally held the grant and ran the H.E.R.E. program. Butte County Behavioral Health Crisis Program still exists to serve minors in a mental health crisis.
And now, Butte County has the H.E.A.R.T Program, Homeless Emergency Action Response Team.
The mission of H.E.A.R.T is to support and protect the well-being of minor homeless youth by providing physical and emotional safety, crisis-intervention, emergency housing, family support, case management, and street outreach services.
The goals of this program are; to provide physical and emotional safety to minor youth experiencing a homeless or runaway episode; reunite runaway youth with their families and strengthen family bonds; promote stable living conditions for runaway and homeless youth, including youth that are at risk of separation from their families but may have not yet runaway; and design, implement and maintain a services delivery system that is responsive to the unique needs of runaway and homeless minors in Butte County.
Our services include; 24 hour mobile crisis intervention, access to temporary shelter, social service advocacy, counseling, family reunification, and support with basic needs such as food, clothing, and hygiene items.
A unique aspect to the H.E.A.R.T. program is that we have an outreach team that consists of 4 youth staff who has also experienced homelessness. This team will engage in street outreach and peer mentoring throughout the county.
H.E.A.R.T collaborates closely with 6th Street Center for Youth who serves homeless and marginally housed youth, ages 14-24. 6th Street provides food, showers, laundry, case management, counseling and other supportive services weekdays 10:30am-5:30pm.
Butte County is fortunate to now have several programs focused on the unique needs and challenges that at-risk, homeless, and runaway youth face in our rural county. Despite our relatively small population, we have a large number of youth experiencing homelessness. In the 2013 Point-in-Time Homeless survey, conducted by Butte County Continuum of Care, there were approximately 400 homeless youth in Butte County. Statistics give us a snap shot of what is happening but as service providers we know the numbers are much greater than reported.
When thinking about youth and adults that experience homelessness, consider this. Ideally, everyone exists and functions healthfully in 3 homes. The first home is the self, their identity, personality, values, and dreams. The second home is a physical structure with walls, separate rooms, clean spaces, the ability to protect someone from the elements, and a place where happy memories are made. The last home is an individuals’ community, the place where they intersect with others, experience interdependence, and learn how to relate to the world. Youth who experience homelessness are often not only lacking a physical structure but they feel alienated from their own identity and community. The process of reintegration takes a village and the H.E.A.R.T. program looks forward to collaborating with more agencies, families, and community partners so that no youth has to experience the trauma that comes from lacking those 3 homes.
Now, everyone has a different idea of what qualifies as the “right” kind of life and we honor our clients’ power to be the expert in their own lives. Regardless, home is where the heart is and the H.E.A.R.T. program is here for youth. Our 24/7 phone number is 1-877-4-Run-Away. Our office number is (530)-636-4267. If you have questions or would like to make any donations you can ask for Emily Bateman our Program Manager.