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The COHHIO Youth Empowerment Program will empower youth by increasing opportunities to take control of their situations while building self-esteem and improving the quality of life through advocacy, leadership and education.
The Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) is a homeless initiative sponsored by the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO). This initiative responds to the alarming increase in youth caught in the cycle of poverty and homelessness in Ohio. YEP assist the estimated 35,000 homeless youth in Ohio become active by organizing to increase stable housing, expand educational opportunities and remove barriers to health care. This effort is being accomplished by the formation of youth leadership advisory councils through out the state of Ohio consisting of current and former homeless children and youth and youth aging out of the foster care system. Members of the YEP youth leadership advisory council are actively engaged in their community. They organize service projects; hold workshops for schools, conferences and youth groups; rebuild donated computer laptops for other homeless children and youth; volunteer at local family and children shelters and food banks; and organize letter writing campaigns and lobbing efforts to help bring long term social change in the homeless children and youth community. Over the duration of a year the efforts of the YEP youth leadership advisory council has been able to identify needs and raise awareness of children and youth suffering in homelessness. These efforts include a strong based in increasing community involvement and service opportunities. Service activities of the YEP youth council include organizing letter writing campaigns to gain support from state and federal legislators to increase funding for homeless education programs, documenting experiences of other homeless children and youth, digging a 200 yard culvert for an elderly couple living in Appalachia to prevent flooding, creating a permanent community garden dedicated to homeless children and youth at a local conservatory and botanical garden, outings to the garden for children staying in shelters, organizing field trips to movies, haunted houses, and the circus, and collecting hundreds of school supplies and personal care items to go to shelters. The best benefit the community receives from the YEP youth leadership advisory council is their efforts not to give up on a community that they feel has given up on them. YEP is dedicated to placing homeless children and youth into a leadership role. Our entire program is based on engaging disadvantaged children and youth in community activities. Members of YEP visit with and talk to other youth in shelters and food sites and invite them to participate in our activates. We offer food, hygiene supplies, computer training and support for any problems they might have. Youth who want to take leadership roles are provided with necessary supplies such as computer laptops to maintain our web site and tape recorders to document stories. Our youth make radio and television appearances and travel to local, state and national conferences to present workshops on dealing with homeless youth issues. The most useful recruitment technique is what YEP has to offer homeless children and youth, support, something to do and somebody to listen to them. Once the youth get involved with YEP they have a sense of self worth and self-accomplishment.
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