In the fall of 2010, a few people with long time concerns about the safety of unaccompanied youth in Dane County, started a series of conversations that led to the first official gathering of what was to become Make Room For Youth.
The inaugural meeting was held on December 10, 2010 in Madison and present were Melissa Sarget, Bonnie Augusta, Jani Koester, Amy Noble, Jared Genova, Brian Juchems, Jeanne Schneider and Anne Hecht.
Other participants along the way have included Gayle Ihlenfeld, Jen Burkel, Frank Crisafi, Casey Behrend, Mary Maronek, Nicole Schulte and Pat Balke.
In the first meetings a name for these efforts and a mission were established.
Some might say the name Make Room For Youth was selected for it’s acronym MRFY and how it would be pronounced; “Murphy”. This has the added bonus of bringing up the image in older peoples minds of a Murphy bed…. The name also expresses the need for the community to “Make Room” and open a place at the table for Unaccompanied Youth who have no place to go and no voice in the public arena.
Developing the mission was a collective process, a discussion about what the real issues are and what MRFY hopes to change in Dane County. There is no place for dozens of young people to stay that is safe, there is no shelter for teens and the adult shelters are not appropriate nor set up to serve young adults.
In the end the decision was made to endorse the following:
“Because every human being deserves a safe home, the mission of Make Room For Youth (MRFY) is to make a positive difference in the lives of youth by developing and maintaining housing for unaccompanied youth (aged 13-21) experiencing homelessness in Dane County.”
ACCOMPLISHMENTS of MRFY in the first year include the following:
• Unaccompanied Youth are now named and included in the Dane County 10 Year plan to end Homelessness.
• Questions gathering information about Unaccompanied Youth were added to the Biennial Dane County Youth Survey.
• A renewed energy and focus on Unaccompanied Youth has emerged within Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin.
• Members and friends of MRFY are active participants in Homelessss Services Consortium, Dane County Youth Commission, and The Dane County Coordinated Community Response to the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.
• Madison Metropolitan School District Transition Education Program has begun participating in the annual winter HUD homeless point-in-time count. This one night census of unsheltered individuals now includes young homeless people attending Madison Schools. For the first time these students are recognized as existing by the Housing and Urban Development Department of the Federal Government.
•MRFY members are developing best practices within MMSD related to the enrollment and support of Unaccompanied Youth and are sharing these practices with the Homeless Education Network of Dane County (HENDC).
• MFRY members have shared Information widely about how Unaccompanied Youth may apply for Food Share and are developing awareness related to accessing health care, school and other resources.
• MRFY members have participated in training about UY through a national advocacy organization (NAEHCY).
•Presentations to the MMSD Student Senate and the congregation of First Unitarian Society have been made by MRFY members.
• On behalf TEP and with a focus on MRFY, an application for a By Youth For Youth Grant has been submitted.
• A community volunteer and a local church created awareness and raised funds for TEP with emphasis on Homeless Students and Unaccompanied Youth.
•MRFY has reached out to local and state government and community interests including Safe Families, the Madison Alliance Church, the Mayor’s Office, Dane County Human Services Director Lynn Green, and Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.
•After very careful and deliberate discussion, MRFY joyfully decided to use Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin as their fiscal agent and YSOSW and MRFY officially signed an agreement on November 9, 2011.
The first donation consisted of an honorarium given to Liz Lusk and Bonnie Augusta for the The William and Joyce Wartmann Lecture on Human Sexuality and the Liberal Religious Tradition in 2011.
MRFY continues to develop. The membership stands firmly committed to the mission and will continue to work together until there are enough safe places for youth to sleep at night in Dane County.
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