The Transylvania Times -

County: Homeless Students Being Addressed - Brevard NC

 


The recently highlighted problem of homeless Transylvania County students is not going “unnoticed,” officials say.

County Commissioner Page Lemel made the comment and said efforts are underway to address the issue.

Lemel was responding Monday during the commissioners’ regular meeting to comments from a member of the public.

During the meeting’s public comment period, Larry Wilson said he was “shocked” and “astounded” after reading a story in The Transylvania Times. The story in the April 21 edition was about a report given at the recent Board of Education meeting, which said, among other things, that the number of homeless students had increased from 100 to 135 within the past month.

Wilson said he hoped that all citizens and not just county and school board officials were trying to find a “solution.”

He suggested it is “heartbreaking” to think that some students who may be about to graduate have “no home” to go to.

Lemel said commissioners have been aware of the issue since December and she met with school officials.

In February, Lemel said, a group of community stakeholders met and have identified some top priorities, such as short-term temporary housing for the students.

The Haven, the local homeless shelter, has some space for families, but Lemel said her group is focusing on students who can’t go home “for whatever reasons.”

One option being looked at is regional opportunities. In May, the group plans to hear from a former homeless student in Hendersonville, who has started a shelter for teenage boys.

For homeless girls, domestic violence shelters could be an option.

“It is a challenge,” Lemel said. “There are so many circumstances that play into homelessness.”

She said with only roughly 300 students in each age group in the county, the number impacted can be managed to “make a difference.”

Prevention

An item later in the meeting, “somewhat” tied in with Wilson’s concerns, according to Commissioner Larry Chapman.

During the meeting, commissioners approved the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council’s (JCPC) County Plan for the 2016/17 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The funding for the JCPC’s work comes from the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Juvenile Justice. No county funds are required.

The roughly $104,000 basically pays for four JCPC programs (see below): youth mediation services, Project Rebound, Project Challenge and Kids at Work/Aspire.

The 22-member JCPC, ultimately, is trying prevent children from ending up in prison.

Government can help but can’t solve these problems, Chapman said.

The community, he said, needs to “come together” and “get involved.”

The following are some of the “risks and needs assessment data from court services” for the 2014/15 fiscal year included in the JCPC’s county plan:

•67 percent of assessed youth are low risk for future delinquent behavior. This number has increased but is lower than the state rate for the past four years. 14 percent of assessed youth are high risk for future delinquent behavior.

This increased from the previous year and is higher than the state rate for the past three years.

•4 percent of assessed youth are age 12 or over for first delinquent offense. This is an increase from the previous year’s rate but lower than the state rate for the past three years. 26 percent are under the age of 12 for their first offense. This is a decrease from the previous year’s rate but higher than the state rate for the past four years.

•57 percent of assessed youth have no known substance abuse. This is an increase from the previous year but lower than the state rate for the past four years. 43 percent of assessed youth have some use and need further assessment and/or treatment. This is a decrease from previous year’s rate but is higher than the state rate for the past four years.

•83 percent of assessed youth have school behavioral problems, which decreased from the previous year. 17 percent have no school behavioral problems. This is an increase from the previous year and is higher than the state rate.

•47 percent of assessed youth have medium to high-level intervention needs, which is higher than the state for the past four years.

•60 percent of assessed youth have evidence of abuse/neglect, which is a slight decrease from the previous year’s rate but is higher than state rate for the past four years.

•79 percent of assessed youth have mental health needs, which is a decrease from previous year’s rate but is higher than the state rate for the past four years. 31 percent need more mental health assessment, which is a decrease from the previous year’s rate.

•81 percent of assessed youth are living with a parent and needs are met, which is an increase from previous year’s rate but is lower than the state rate for the past four years. 16 percent of assessed youth were in temporary residence and their needs are met, which is a decrease from the previous year’s rate but is higher than the state rate for the past four years.

•23 percent of assessed youth have health/hygiene problems, which is a decrease from previous year’s rate but is higher than the state rate for the past three years.

•37 percent of assessed youth have domestic discord in the home, which is a decrease from the previous year’s rate but is higher than the state rate for the past four years.

•34 percent of assessed youth have parents with adequate family supervision, which is an increase from the previous year’s rate but is lower than the state rate for the past four years. 67 percent of assessed youth have family with marginal to inadequate supervision skills, which is a decrease from the previous year’s rate, but is higher than the state rate for the past four years.

•29 percent of assessed youth have family with drug use/abuse issues, which is a two-year increase trend and is higher than the state rate for the past four years.

•40 percent of assessed youth have family members with criminal history, which is a three-year increase trend and is higher than the state rate for the past four years. 2 percent of assessed youth have family under court supervision or have gang involvement, which is an increase from the previous year’s rate.

There are resources in the community, according to the JCPC’s report, to tackle these issues but sometimes they have limited capacity and transport can be a barrier.

Resource groups, with programs such as mentoring and tutoring, include the Mediation Center, El Centro, Boys & Girls Club, 4H Club, Rise & Shine Freedom School, church youth groups and others.

There are also a number of resources for clinical treatment, but funding is a barrier for many of these resources, along with other barriers and restrictions, such as difficulty for some living outside Brevard to have access, according to the report.

The following services have been ranked in order for funding priorities for the upcoming fiscal year: 1. Structured Day; 2. Restitution/Community Service; 3. Mediation; 4. Temporary Shelter; 5. Interpersonal Skills; 6. Mentoring; 7. Parent Family Skill Building; 8. Vocational; 9. Tutoring; 10. Experiential Skill Building Services; and 11. Teen Court.

•Project Challenge ($20,211) is a dispositional option to juvenile court, allowing participants to repay or give back to their community.

Project Challenge provides participants the opportunity to fulfill their obligation to the courts by completing community service, and provides victims repayment of monetary loss. The mission is to help youth become confident, productive members of their community through the offering of their time and talents and through challenging recreational activities.

•Project Rebound ($39,000) is a therapeutic structured day program for students (male and female) ages 12-17 that are court involved or high risk of delinquent behaviors as indicated by serious infractions — truancy, substance abuse, aggression, weapon violations. While these violations may otherwise expel a student from school, students are referred to Rebound on diversion in lieu of removal from school. Court referred students on diversion contracts, delinquent or undisciplined are also referred.

•Youth Mediation Services ($26,300). The Mediation Center — Youth Guided Problem Solving: serves at-risk and delinquent youth involved in conflict at school, home or in the community, such as fighting, truancy, property damage, teacher conflicts, parent conflict, poor peer relationships, or school behavior issues. Youth develop skills for goal setting, conflict resolution, and individual behavior problems.

Guided Problem Solving: leads to a reduction in problem behavior at home, school, and in the community.

Youth Mediation: provides conflict resolution services to youth. Victims and offenders meet together with a neutral mediator to work out a solution to the conflict and to develop a written agreement to prevent delinquent behaviors in the future.

School Attendance Mediation: works against truancy through collaborative problem solving with students, parents, teachers, and administrators to identify the barriers to attendance and devise solutions to overcome those barriers.

•Kids At Work/Aspire ($16,056) is an interpersonal skills development program based around the culinary arts. Clients progress through an interpersonal skill development curriculum on a week-by-week basis and apply what they learn in the kitchen environment. Youth are a part of the program for 16 weeks and meet for three hours once a week. The whole curriculum consists of 24 hands-on lessons that are designed to meet the client’s unique learning skills and help them apply the skills into their daily environment.

More from the commissioners’ meeting will appear in Monday’s paper.

 
 

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