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The Friendship Club Receives $100,000 Grant for New Program to Help Homeless Youth Get Education, Social and Emotional Support

Almost 200 high school students are homeless in Nevada County

The Friendship Club has received a $100,000 state grant connected to the increased focus on addressing homelessness in California, allowing the nonprofit organization to greatly expand its efforts and provide much-needed services to youth experiencing homelessness in the region, a fast-growing but often-overlooked segment of the population.

The grant provides partial funding for the Friendship Club’s Homeless Youth Career Technical Education Pilot Program, entitled, “SAFE,” which stands for key components of the program – Stability, Access, Foundation and Empowerment.

The new SAFE program provides academic, social and emotional support along with life-skills to homeless high school juniors and seniors as they transition into adulthood.

“Homelessness is a huge issue in our community, especially for our youth,” said Jennifer Singer, Executive Director of The Friendship Club. “The SAFE pilot program opens the door to endless opportunities, helps break the cycle of poverty and aims to prevent young people from being homeless as adults.”

An estimated 172 high school students in Nevada County were homeless in 2018, a 36% increase compared to 2014, according to the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools. Nationally, nearly 50 percent of chronically homeless adults experienced homelessness as teens and young adults, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

“California is the third most expensive place to live in the United States. Homelessness and poverty have been an increasing issue in recent years, especially for teenagers and young adults who are just starting to be independent,” said Mike Dent, Director of Nevada County Department or Child Support, Collections, Housing and Community Services and a board member of the Homeless Resource Council of the Sierras. “The Friendship Club is connecting with these students to ensure they get services and support, and develop the skills needed to become productive, successful young adults.”

The Friendship Club was awarded $100,000 for the pilot program through Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP) funding administered through the Homeless Resource Council of the Sierras (HRCS). One of the funding priorities identified for HEAP addressed the need for homelessness prevention and, more specifically, the growing numbers of youth who are living in unstable situations, on the street or in cars.

Under the SAFE pilot program, The Friendship Club provides students experiencing homelessness a safe place to meet with peers who face similar challenges, offers the support of the staff and well-trained adults and mentors, and connects them to community resources.

The students recently entered the SAFE pilot program at the end of their junior year of high school. They will continue while they attend Sierra College in Grass Valley and Rocklin and take classes to earn a Career Technical Education (CTE) certificate. The students will get an education, learn independence and develop new skills that put them on the path to success.

“The program is definitely about giving homeless students a much-appreciated and greatly needed helping hand, but also not simply a handout,” said Lauren Stowe, Board President of The Friendship Club. “This is about building a solid foundation and giving them every opportunity for a brighter future.”

Many of these children’s families have battled financial instability and homelessness much of their lives. About 11% of households in Nevada County live in poverty, including 17% – or almost one of every five – children.

“Rural youth homelessness is very unique and less visible than in cities,” said Nancy Baglietto, Executive Director of Hospitality House and Board Vice President of HRCS. “Many homeless teens and young adults in rural areas will ‘couch surf,’ staying with friends, extended family or neighbors, making them less visible and more difficult to identify and serve.”

The Friendship Club already works closely with Hospitality House Homeless Shelter in Nevada County, local schools and businesses and Sierra College. These collaborative efforts will continue with the Homeless Youth Career Technical Education Pilot Program.

“Homelessness is a big problem, and developing a program, connecting with the students and working with them is a huge task,” said Dent of Nevada County Housing and Community Services. “I hope the pilot program is a major step forward in breaking the multi-generational poverty cycle.”

Funding from the just-received state grant will allow The Friendship Club to help between 30 and 60 youth under the SAFE pilot program. The Friendship Club has already received about $35,000 in donations from the community for the program and has applied for additional grants.

The three-year SAFE pilot program is open to boys and girls, an expansion of The Friendship Club’s girls-only efforts.

The Friendship Club has enjoyed much success since opening in 1995, serving about 125 girls at a time, in a comprehensive, long-term program.
The Nevada County-based organization aims to break the cycle of poverty, abuse and untreated trauma for girls between the ages of 10 and 18, and continues to provide services into their early 20s as they transition into adulthood.

The Friendship Club focuses on six areas: health and wellness, healthy relationships, goal setting, self-awareness, self-sufficiency and community connectedness.

The SAFE homeless youth pilot program builds on and expands The Friendship Club’s efforts and services.

“The pilot program is the next-step in the evolution of The Friendship Club,” said organization Board President Stowe. “We want to address homelessness and help youth succeed, which will have a very positive impact on them and the community overall.”

About The Friendship Club

The Friendship Club provides a comprehensive, year-round, long-term program aimed at helping empower and educate youth who face challenges of poverty, abuse and trauma between the ages of 10 and 18 and provides assistance into their 20s as they transition into adulthood. Founded in 1995, The Friendship Club serves about 125 youth at a time, guiding them to a bright future by focusing on six areas: health and wellness, healthy relationships, goal setting, self-awareness, self-sufficiency and community connectedness. Based in Nevada County, Friendship Club is expanding to help alleviate homelessness among teenage boys and girls and provide mental health counseling on-site.

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