D.C. Homeless Youth Gain Independence and Hope

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Portraits of youth with the words Growth, Faith, Hope, and Fidelity | By Ashley Strange

By Ashley Strange

Trinity Washington University

Journalism Class Student

Mayor Muriel Bowser and Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Brenda Donald, opened a transitional home known as Wayne Place on Mississippi Avenue SE D.C to provide young people with the support they need to live a successful, independent, adult life.

In March of 2015, homeless youth ages 18-24 were given the opportunity to learn how to be independent in a home surrounded by people who they can call family, according to a press release on Mayor Bowser’s webpage on the D.C. Government website.

The press release also stated that Wayne Place is managed through a partnership between the Department of Behavioral Health (DBH) and Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). The transitional home is a complex of six buildings, a total of 22 apartments holding up to two residents at a time.

During a tour, I observed two community rooms with televisions and games, a computer room, and a place to wash clothes free of charge for the Transitioned Aged Youth, or known as TAYs. Wayne Place has security on site twenty-four hours, seven days a week. Another way Wayne Place ensures the safety of its residents is through a fob system that lets only the TAYs and staff members into the buildings.

TAYs have up to 18 months in the transitional living program from the day they enter. In that time, it is required that they are in school, working, or both, and they are required to meet with their assigned caseworkers regularly for goal setting.

Ms. Portia Banks, the Lead Case Manager and Facilitator of the program, said there was a need for such a program. Ms. Banks stated that between the ages of 16-24, which she calls her “lost years,” she experienced what many youth today are experiencing as they transition into adulthood. She also said that many youth ranging from 16-24 years of age suffer with mental health issues and homelessness in D.C.

According to Ms. Banks, a “transitional program gives youth [the] opportunity to recognize their strengths,” and it gives the opportunity to know how it feels to have the responsibility to pay for the things that they need. Program Coordinator, Rhonda Abney, stated that this population of youth is “underserved” in DC.

Vera Johnson, Program Manager at Wayne Place, stated that “there was a gap” between youth aging out and becoming adults. There was a high number of youth in D.C. who were living in this “gap,” which is why Wayne Place was needed. “Your generation is expected to just make it,” Ms. Johnson said to me. But this expectation is not realistic because young adults need more help to transition into adulthood and succeed.

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About Ashley Strange

I am studying Communications and English at Trinity University In Washington, D.C. I spent five years in the D.C. foster care system after my mother passed. Life for me has always been a struggle. Specifically, school. I thank God that I was able to graduate despite being told I wouldn't. My learning disability seemed to be too much for teachers to handle; so, I was casted away and did not learn much. After entering foster care I began to go to school everyday and managed to graduate with a 2.7 GPA. I consider myself an advocate and an example for foster youth and for those who were told to basically give up. To this day, I find it amazing that I got my High School Diploma, and will soon be a college graduate. My advice to people like me is to never give up and always strive for success!
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