Stepping Stones’ goal is to provide a supportive community that encourages young people to make decisions that positively affect their lives and prepare them for the future. Our program has two over arching components: transitional housing and independent living.
Our semi-supervised transitional housing program is for youth between the ages of 16-20 who are experiencing homelessness. It is comprised of three two-bedroom, furnished apartments which house 9 residents total (3 girls and 6 boys) for up to two years. A new, fourth apartment houses to Resident Assistants and a fifth apartment serves as our Community Center and administrative offices. It is the central hub where residents and program participants receive case management, have group, use the computer lab and individual meetings and are able to socialize with staff and friends. Our clustered housing provides a safe and supportive environment for residents to hone their skills so they can become self-sufficient. It is our goal to move residents into a permanent housing situation once they leave the program. In 2008, 100% of our residents obtained permanent housing.
Our independent living program serves youth in our housing program, former residents and other at-risk youth in the community. These programs and services are the essential skills youth need in order to achieve a successful transition into adulthood and become self-sufficient. We provide one-on-one and group coaching and case management to help residents reach their self-identified, staff-assisted goals in a “Life Map.”
We believe that one instrument for successful independent living is education. For those residents who have not obtained a high school diploma or GED equivalent, we require them to be enrolled in school during their time in our program. Of the 34 youth who have been in our program since 2005, 100% of those residents who had not graduated from school attended high school or a GED program. In collaboration with teachers, counselors and school administrators, we monitor their progress by reviewing progress reports, report cards and attendance to help ensure their success. In 2008, two former and one current residents graduated from high school!
For those who have already graduated, we provide ongoing encouragement and support to those interested in obtaining higher education. We also provide or coordinate tutoring as needed.
Another essential instrument for success that is often a barrier for youth is employment. Residents are expected to be employed while in our housing program. This can be a challenge given their inexperience, youthfulness and, sometimes, poor work history; however, from the time they are looking for jobs and filling out applications to actual on-the-job coaching (if necessary), we provide them with assistance they need to be successful. In 2008, 100% of our residents obtained a job while in residency.
Our career exploration program is designed to help youth think about their future and how to reach their goals. In both group and individual sessions, residents complete a personal career plan; learn about various occupations; develop job searching skills such as résumé writing, interview skills and professionalism; and they develop an awareness of their personal strengths and abilities.
In an attempt to educate and provide relevant experience to residents, while in the program, they are required to pay a portion of their housing expenses (e.g. rent, utilities, phone, etc). We couple the experience with monthly budgeting meetings to facilitate understanding of income vs. expense, need vs. want and to encourage them to live a fiscally responsible life.
Educational Group Sessions
Once a week, residents and staff come together for an evening of community, education and food. We provide a nutritious group meal that residents take turns preparing. Local organizations like Middle Way House, Ivy Tech, Positive Link and other speakers come help us focus on core topics such as drug awareness, conflict resolution and stress management. This experience also fosters a sense of community and is a safe place for our residents to interact with their peers and staff.
Health & Wellness
Our holistic approach to personal health and wellness begins with preventative measures like accessing health professionals and understanding personal health to providing them with healthy lifestyle alternatives through physical recreational activities and alternatives to substance abuse. In addition to education, we provide our residents with fresh fruits and vegetables of their choosing on a biweekly basis.
Many of our residents have not seen a health professional in years and have used emergency centers as their primary care. When a resident enters our program, we provide them with guidance to navigate the complicated medical systems as well as other governmental assistance programs. While they are in our program, we also have them create a personal Health Profile and meet with a Community Health Educator to discuss ways to improve their health. By the time they leave our program, it is our goal that they have taken over their own health coordination. Educating our youth on the available community resources and how to access them is an essential component of our program. This provides them with information and networks so that, when they leave the program, they have the resources to be self-sufficient.
By offering a wide variety of recreational activities like rock climbing and swimming, this program promotes regular, healthy physical activity and is open to high school-aged youth in the community. While rock climbing at Hoosier Heights, one resident noted that she “forgot how much fun it is to be active!”
Alternatives & Awareness (AA)
This program educates youth on the negative effects of drug use and gives them healthy alternatives. To ensure the success of our residents, we couple educational sessions and positive alternative activities with drug screenings when use is suspected. In a non-punitive setting, we provide our residents the supplemental counseling and encouragement to break negative habits.