#BecauseofRHYA, Two Midwest Youth Shelters Have Long Histories

silhouette of young people

What has the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act enabled you or your organization to do? Throughout September, share your accomplishments and connections to the act on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #BecauseofRHYA. Don’t have a social media account? Email your thoughts to us and we’ll share on your behalf!

Here's what we heard from Shirley Caylor, executive director of Crisis Center, Inc., in Gary, IN:

The Crisis Center’s Alternative House opened in January, 1976. It is one of the first funded federal programs. In the 1970s, calls had come in to our volunteer-run crisis line from kids who were on the streets. Armed with a belief that if it needed to be done, we could do it, we opened our emergency shelter with no money and a volunteer-run raffle to pay the utilities. Timing is everything. The Juvenile Justice Act [which included the Runaway Youth Act] had passed in 1974. We applied and were funded.

In the almost 39 years of Alternative House, we estimate that 10,000-plus boys and girls have passed through our doors. Kids like the young girl who wrote to us years later to tell us how the counseling helped her deal with her abuse and made her a better parent to her own kids. Or the young boy whose entry to Alternative House allowed him to finish high school and go on to college.

Small changes have large effects. Changing the lives of youth changes everyone with whom they are connected far into the future. The passage and continuation of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act helped us change and save the lives of boys and girls. The Act is a life changer for them but also for everyone with whom they will connect.

And from George Belitsos, chief executive and founder of Youth and Shelter Services in Ames, IA:

Youth and Shelter Services was just getting started 40 years ago. We opened Iowa’s first emergency youth shelter known as Rosedale Shelter. The Runaway and Homeless Youth Act provides funding to this day, and just over 7,500 youth have been housed and served by Rosedale.

The agency has expanded to 25 locations, and our branch in Des Moines, known as Iowa Homeless Youth Center, is now in the process of remodeling a new 20,000 square foot runaway and homeless youth center in the heart of downtown. Every step of our growth has been aided by the resources of the Act, and Youth and Shelter Services, our youth and the state of Iowa are grateful.

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