The young and the homeless

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Cay Fatima, of Lakeview, a legal advocate who counseled Ivey in court, told the Herald last August that Ivey had exhibited erratic behavior after his father’s death in 2012, becoming too troublesome for relatives to shelter. Before he was arrested seven months later, his family did not know his whereabouts.

Keeping the doors open
To keep young people off the streets, some shelters and service groups have adopted an open-door policy, meaning they ask relatively few questions when homeless teens arrive seeking shelter and food. Beds at long-term transitional shelters, which offer more comprehensive social services, are limited, however. So most homeless young people wind up in short-term emergency shelters.

Walkabout can house only 10 residents for about 18 months each, according to the program’s director, Andrea Kerr. The organization aided 40 young people ages 16 to 20 in 2013, offering vocational training and educational counseling, along with free room and board.

Statewide budget cuts for social services, especially mental health counseling, have limited shelters’ ability to help homeless teens, Kerr noted. “We’re constantly in jeopardy of having to close our doors because we can’t afford it,” she said. “But somehow, we manage every year, whether it’s cuts to how much we spend on food, staff or activities. The agency essentially doesn’t want to close these doors.” She noted that Walkabout is Nassau’s only long-term shelter for teens.

Nassau Haven is a short-term emergency shelter that helps runaways and homeless young people ages 10 to 20 at an undisclosed location. It admitted 210 residents last year — about 200 fewer than in 2012. The organization’s director, William Best, said that both short- and long-term shelters have had to scrimp in recent years because they have lost tens of thousands of dollars in state and federal funding.

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