As the National Runaway Prevention Month is in full swing, there are many ways that Chicagoans can get involved to support this cause. One of Chicago Cares’ community partners is Open Door Shelter, part of The Night Ministry. Open Door Shelter is one of the six service agencies in Chicago that provide long-term housing and other services to homeless youth. At these agencies, youth are provided not only with housing, but are able to focus on other daily essentials such as working towards an education, finding a job, and learning everyday skills that they had not previously needed until they became homeless.

In West Town, Open Door Shelter is a youth housing facility that helps homeless youth by providing housing and support services for youth ages 14-20, and their children. Open Door Shelter has a 120-Day Interim Program, as well as a Transitional Living Program, which is an 8-bed facility. Through both programs, youth are provided with the resources to educational, occupational, therapeutic, and supportive activities. These programs provide the residents with stability and consistency, while also helping the youth reach their individual goals.

Currently, Chicago Cares has two ongoing programs with Open Door Shelter that occur every Monday. Cooking at Open Door Shelter is a cooking program for the residents. As part of learning life skills, volunteers come bi-weekly and cook a healthy meal with the residents. Youth and volunteers are then able to sit together while the youth enjoy the meal they just prepared.

When Chicago Cares volunteers are not cooking with the residents on a Monday night, the Job Coaching program is taking place. While the youth reside at Open Door Shelter, they are actively looking to secure permanent housing, as well as employment and medical care. During Job Coaching at Open Door Shelter, volunteers work with the residents in a group or one-on-one setting in order to prepare for finding a job. This ranges from discussing what is appropriate to wear to a job interview, to perfecting their resume, to filling out individual resumes.

Although Chicago Cares has different ways that you can get involved with issues that center around homelessness, these are just two ways that you can get involved during National Runaway Prevention Month in Chicago. The National Runaway Switchboard and the National Network for Youth serve as a valuable resource to find different ways you can raise awareness on these issues and provide service in your own communities. Take a look at their ideas, and also look at the different ways you can volunteer and help with this issue in your own community.

Today’s post is from Human Services Coordinator, Aly Moser.

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