Monday, August 29, 2011

Resource list for homeless youth

This is a list of resources* that I've compiled over time and I regularly offer via online ads. I have decided to copy & paste it here, so that it can be accessed at any time by someone who needs the information. Please keep in mind that I live in the Phoenix, AZ area, and therefore some, but not all, of these resources are limited to the Phoenix area.

*Please note that some info on this list may be outdated. I am currently working to update the list, but since I had not posted it for a while, I wanted to go ahead and put it up for now "as is" in case anyone is in need of these resources. Please feel free to bring to my attention any info here that is not currently accurate. Thanks!


If you or someone you know is a homeless teen, or doesn’t have a steady place to stay (also known as “couch surfing”), or is in a bad home situation that they’re thinking of trying to escape, here are some resources and information that may be of help. These organizations/resources offer many more services than those I mention here, but I will tell you some of what I know they have to offer.

Tumbleweed Center For Youth Development
24-hour crisis hotline: 602-841-5799
Toll-free: 1-866-SAFE703

If you are in the Phoenix area, Tumbleweed is the first place I would recommend you call. They have been extremely helpful to many kids I’ve known.

• Serves youth ages 11-22.
• Emergency shelter.
• Drop-in center.
• Transitional living.
• Counseling.
• Tumbleweed will help you with any and all necessities, from a place to sleep to food and clothes, toiletries, literally anything you might need.
• They will help you get your GED. This includes helping you prepare for it, and they will pay for your test. I don’t know for certain that they still offer this, but they gave my foster son a $100 gift card just for passing his GED.
• Tumbleweed has lots of great “incentive” type programs, such as helping you get a job and then giving you rewards (such as gift cards) for certain accomplishments like being on time for work every day, etc.
• Bus passes if you are working or going to school, or looking for work, etc.
• Tumbleweed has a lot to offer, so give them a call!

National Runaway Switchboard

You do NOT have to actually be a “runaway” to get help from this organization.

• Anonymous, confidential & free crisis line 24/7.
• Helps youth up to age 21.
• Message relay & conference calls: They will deliver a message to your family for you and your parents can leave a message with them to pass along to you. If you give them a message for your parents, they will call them and deliver it. This is a very helpful service if you wish to let your parents know you’re okay, or have some other message to get to them, but do not wish to speak to them personally. Constructive messages only (in other words, they won’t call to tell your parents you hate them or curse them out for you). If you would like to talk to your family personally but feel that things won’t go well in the conversation, they will help you call them via conference call and stay on the line with you to help talk through things.
• Referrals to drug rehab facilities, shelters, family counselors, etc.
• Information regarding legal and medical issues.
• “Home Free” program: If you’d like to get home, but cannot afford it, they can provide a free Greyhound bus ticket. There are qualifications you must meet. For example, you must be between the ages of 12 and 20 and have had a missing person’s report filed on you. Up to age 18 you must be returning to a parent or legal guardian. If you’re age 19 or 20, they can get you a ticket to an independent living facility. There may be other rules as well, so please check with them.
• Bulletin Board: On their web site,, they have a bulletin board where you can post questions and get answers. It is a wonderful place to start if you have internet access and you have questions about things like what age it is legal to leave home in different areas of the country, emancipation, legal issues, how to help a friend who is in a bad situation, etc. The bulletin board is really great, and I cannot stress that enough. Very, very helpful.

Covenant House
Covenant House “Nine Line”: 1-800-999-9999

• Their motto: “Food, clothing, shelter for a night: given freely, with no questions asked, no strings attached, for any hurting, homeless youth who will knock on our door tonight.”
• Nineline hotline services available 24/7.
• Urgent and primary medical care free of charge to homeless, runaway, and at-risk young people ages 21 and younger. Psychiatric services also.
• If there is not a Covenant House located in your city, the Nineline will help you with where to go. They also refer to family shelters if your entire family is homeless.
• Provides shelters, help with employment, finding a place to live, etc.
• Mother/Child program: Provides services to homeless pregnant women and young mothers with children. The purpose of the program is to provide long-term housing, health services, counseling, employment training and parenting skills workshops to young mothers so they and their children can look forward to a brighter, more stable future.

ChildHelp USA

• If you believe you are being abused, ChildHelp is a good place to call and discuss it, and what your options are.
• Does not provide immediate shelter.

HomeBase Youth Services
602-254-7777 or 1-888-254-4297

• Helps at-risk and homeless youth between the ages of 18-21.
• Local to the Phoenix and Tempe area.
• Very helpful, respectful, and non-confrontational (in other words, they will offer you help without pushing anything on you). No obligation, no questions asked.
• They have a Street Outreach Van that is stocked with food, clothing, water, hygiene supplies and sleeping bags.
• Resource Program at the Dustin D. Wolfswinkel Center for Youth: Through the program youth receive basic needs, case management, and life-skills training. Resources available at the center include food, clothing, hygiene supplies, laundry and shower facilities, bus tickets, employment skills training, resume writing assistance, support for educational needs, mental health care, substance abuse intervention, case management, medical and dental care, and referrals to obtain overnight shelter and/or permanent housing (either at HomeBase or with an outside agency). Youth are able to earn points for their hard work and, in turn, use those points to obtain gift cards, extra bus tickets, and other prizes offered at the monthly barbecue that's held at the center.
• Offers mental health and substance abuse services to the youth in all of its programs.
• Employment and education services: Employment skills training and educational assistance is available. They will also provide study guides for your G.E.D., and they will pay for your G.E.D.
• HomeBase Education Assistance Fund: Want to go to college, a trade school, or a vocational-training program? You can apply for a scholarship through this program.

Stand Up For Kids

Call this hotline and you will get a very friendly, very helpful person who will talk through your situation with you. They won’t judge, they won’t tell you what you have to do, they will just talk to you and find out what you need right now. Then they will help you get it. It’s that simple. They operate, as they say, “like a family”. Lots of resources from food and shelter to counseling, helping you plan your way, etc.

...and then there’s me...
Cheri Mason

I’m a mom, that’s all I am. I am not a trained social worker, an expert on anything, or a miracle worker. But... I’m pretty good at coming up with ideas, problem-solving, or just listening. I also happen to have been around the block a time or two, and I’ve seen just about everything, so you’re not going to shock me and I’m not going to judge you. If you don’t feel like you’re getting what you need from the above resources, or you feel like you’re a little lost and not sure how to ask for help or what questions to ask, or you’d just like the advice of a mom who doesn’t work for any official agency, contact me. I will do what I can, and I have found that there is almost always an answer that we can find together.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Conundrum: When To Stop Sacrificing?

I'm in a pickle here and I'm having a hard time figuring out what's the right thing to do. My 21-year-old foster son moved out four months ago, and since then I've been giving him his space. Which is what I assume he wants. It's a little difficult to figure out what he wants because he won't say, actually. So, the best I can do is make assumptions, and I've assumed he wanted me to keep my distance.

Recently, within the last few days, I have tried to gently open the lines of communication with him. It has been very difficult. Whatever I say seems to come across the wrong way, and before I know it he is unhappy with me. I'm walking on eggshells with him because he absolutely will not tell me what he wants from me (Back off? Stay in touch? Give him some time? Never call him again?), and ironically enough, he says he doesn't like it that I'm walking on eggshells... Yeah, tough one there.

Fortunately for all involved, I am patient and I can wait until the time comes when he is willing to talk. However, I have some decisions to make in the near future that will impact him, so there are some things that need to be talked about. One of the most important ones is this: Do I take him as a dependent on my taxes?

See, here's the deal: For years I have not been listing him as a dependent on my taxes, which of course is a sacrifice on my part financially, because if I do so it will interfere with his college financial aid. It's complicated, but basically unless he files independently he will have to go and get his biological parents' tax returns in order to file for the grant he receives. And the amount of their income will disqualify him for said grant. Upon the advice of his college financial aid office, the only way to go about this was for him to file independently and then provide a letter each year. I agreed to forego the tax deduction and this has been working for three years now.

But now things have changed. Now he is gone, separated from the entire family (not just me), and really appearing to want nothing to do with any of us. He refuses to say why, refuses to give any answers, and leaves me in a position of not knowing whether I am supposed to grieve a loss here and move on, or wait out some mysterious issue until he's ready to speak. For all I know he will sit down with me someday and explain to me what was going on in his mind and we will patch things up, or else perhaps I will never hear from him again. Either result is as likely as the other.

Meanwhile, I need to file my taxes. I've put it off because I couldn't decide what to do. Other kids in the family are upset that I have continued to help him and make sacrifices for him (which I have), that I have spoiled him and never held him accountable or required anything of him (which is also probably true), and that I've allowed him to be manipulative (maybe true - my perspective is admittedly not clear enough to be sure). Frankly, he is acting like a huge self-centered jerk (gotta admit that) and everyone but me has had enough of it. And here I am with another sacrifice to make - foregoing that deduction once again on the taxes so he can stay in school.

What makes this even more complicated is that he doesn't know this is an issue. He seems to have forgotten that I've been doing this for years, and if I decide that I am taking the deduction, I will need to contact him and let him know that he's got to talk to his financial aid office because he's not able to file as independent for this year. If I contact him and tell him this, I know it's going to come across as me being angry and vindictive. And THAT is counter-productive to my ultimate goal of patching up this relationship.

I should probably mention this, too: When he left, he didn't just move out in some kind of planned, organized way. He got upset and left in a huff, leaving unfinished projects and half his things and messes to be cleaned up - all of which fell on the shoulders of myself and the other kids. He apparently just expected that everyone would go ahead and clean up after him, take care of his things until he retrieved them, etc. Naturally the other kids are very, very unhappy about all this. So, if I make another sacrifice at the expense of this family in order to benefit him... Well, it could get ugly.

Besides all that, there's the matter of what is just good parenting. He's behaved very selfishly and irresponsibly, and I'm not sure I should continue rewarding that. I may already have contributed to the problem we're dealing with now by my past "spoiling" of him. He seems, at almost twenty-two years old now, to believe that he does not have any personal responsibility for the impact he has on those around him. He seems to believe he doesn't owe anyone anything, not even an explanation. He seems to feel entitled to act in any way he pleases with no accountability for how that affects others.

If I continue to make sacrifices for him, as much as I love him, I may be reinforcing these attitudes. If I don't make the sacrifices, he may lose out on his college education and also it may further damage our relationship since he'll interpret it as me being vindictive. Sigh...

If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'd sure appreciate hearing them. :-/