FYSB Tribal Grantees Speak: Sarah Finnell, street outreach worker, Fairbanks, AK

logo, Fairbanks Counseling & Adoption

In this five-part series, we spoke with staff and young people living and working in programs that have received grants from the Family and Youth Services Bureau. Some are Tribal organizations; others are non-tribal entities that serve a large number of Native youth. Here’s what Sarah Finnell, a street outreach worker for Fairbanks Counseling & Adoption in Fairbanks, AK, had to say:

When I first started doing street outreach, we had a partnership with the public library. We would reserve a conference room once a week and bring in crock pots with soup and dishes and survival supplies, like hand warmers and toothbrushes. Homeless teens tend to hang out at the public library because they can loiter for free without being kicked out. And it’s warm in the winter. We would spend time there, and the teens would smell the food and come in and just start talking.

I remember one time, there was a group of young people who started talking about the different villages they came from. They were mostly Native Alaskan, and they were talking about what tribes they came from and kind of looking for connections. It seemed like that shared history and cultural identity was a really positive thing for them, like knowing where they came from and where their parents came from helped give them a sense of belonging.

Lots of teens feel misunderstood. They are dealing with many issues – domestic violence, depression and suicide – so a lot of the young people leave homes that are not supportive. We do the best we can with them, and they do the best with what they’re given. We try to make sure that every youth understands their value as a human being.

The Street Outreach Program funds programs that send outreach workers out on the streets and in the community to build relationships with young people who may need help. In FY 2009, 157 programs received a total of $16.1 million. Grant announcements are usually released every year in the spring. Sign up to be notified when new grant announcements are released.

9-5 pm Eastern