New Vision Youth Services (NVYS) steps in where society has failed Virginia youth. These are the kids who have no dependable place to land at night, and no way forward in life, unless someone steps in with a bit of help. And that’s exactly what New Vision Youth Services has done: provided safe harbor and a brighter future to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It sounds simple enough, but it’s actually a lot to deal with: making sure that disenfranchised kids have food, work, and a place to sleep at night. From what we can see, NVYS is doing a bang-up job of things, helping kids find their way past adversity to self-sufficiency and independence. We were glad to extend a helping hand to this critical initiative through our small grant program.
We spoke to New Vision Youth Services Communications Liaison Natalie Hood to learn more about this important work:
Kars4Kids: Tell us about the kids you serve. Who are they?
Natalie Hood: We provide services to youth ages 13-21 who are homeless, court involved, in foster care, and/or disadvantaged in some other way.
Kars4Kids: What are some of the specific needs of homeless children, other than finding shelter?
Natalie Hood: After stabilizing safe shelter, the primary focus for these youth is providing a support system that is not already present from a family member or guardian. Assisting with food, shelter, job assistance, and life skills training are all factors we take into account for our youth.
Kars4Kids: What types of “unsafe sleeping” do you typically see in the youth you serve?
Natalie Hood: Most youth we assess are couch surfing from house to house with no type of stability. When couch surfing is not an option, sleeping in a car or on the street is the next option for youth without stable living environments.
Kars4Kids: Talk to us about your customized transitional living program. Can you give us examples of how you customize transitional living to the young people you work with?
Natalie Hood: Our custom housing program is designed to fit the individual needs of each youth through our initial assessments given by a case manager. Our major factors to address are criminal background, no credit history, and the lack of skills to live independently.
Kars4Kids: NVYS offers life skills training. What sort of skills are taught?
Natalie Hood: The focus of life skills training is to assist disadvantaged youth transition into self-sufficient adults. For example, we assist in completing job applications, preparing for job interviews, and educational advancement opportunities such as our ABE/GED class.
Kars4Kids: What role does mentoring play in your work with youth?
Natalie Hood: Our mentoring is based on a life skills level where disadvantaged youth work with an assigned life skills coach in order to become self-sufficient. Our life skills coaches work to assist youth in staying on track and motivated about their set goals for self-sufficiency.
Kars4Kids: Foster youth are more than twice as likely to drop out of school. Why? What is NVYS doing to counter this grave phenomenon?
Natalie Hood: One out of every five youth age out of the foster system and become homeless. Foster youth already experience the lack of a family support system. Without a support system, school is not a priority for these youth especially as they age out of the foster system at age 18. Factors such as shelter, food assistance, and employment become a higher priority. Once a foster youth leaves the foster care system, they are more vulnerable to predators. 70% of foster care youth who have aged out of the system become victims of sex trafficking. NVYS provides wrap around services to not only offer a support system but a customized housing plan, life skills training, and case management. Once a homeless youth is placed in a stable living environment, we also assist in job searching or educational advancement opportunities. Self-sufficiency is our end goal for the youth we work with.
Kars4Kids: How does your staff measure success in their work with youth?
Natalie Hood: NVYS is able to measure our success by evaluating the progress of each youth based on their initial assessment. The assessment involves immediate, short-term, and long-term goal planning designed to fit the unique needs of each youth. One size does not always fit all and we assess everyone based on their personal needs.
Kars4Kids: Can you share a success story with our readers?
Natalie Hood: Client E.S. was referred to New Vision Youth Services as a single homeless male who was sleeping behind a dumpster. He was previously criminally charged with trespassing locally but was formerly in foster care. NVYS assigned a case manager who then assessed E.S. as a disadvantaged youth who needed assistance with housing and food. NVYS helped E.S. transition initially into a homeless shelter followed by a short-term room rental and then into a permanent low-income housing placement. E.S. had his criminal charges dismissed through the help of NVYS and has since established his self-sufficiency by securing permanent housing and maintaining a full-time job.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for New Vision Youth Services?
Natalie Hood: We are transitioning into a larger facility within the upcoming months. The demand from the community for our services has rapidly increased since the COVID-19 Pandemic and our transition will allow us to expand our current services. Our ABE/GED classroom will grow to hold 25 students at a time versus the 10 we are currently able to have. We will also have separate intake and testing rooms available in order to best assess the needs of each individual that walks through our doors. We are excited about the upcoming expansion as it will allow us to provide our current services to more disadvantaged youth.