On Their Own Turf
Children’s Village’s Street Outreach Program started in 1998 as a way to reach the thousands of alienated youth who spend all or most of their nights on the streets of Westchester County’s urban centers. These kids, who are often victimized and sexually exploited, do not typically seek help and thus are missed by most programs designed to help youth.
The Street Outreach Program is premised on the belief that youth can make positive changes in their lives if presented with reasonable alternatives to street life. Services are offered on the youth’s home turf in a manner that encourages trust and acceptance, and delivered by staff who can relate to youth in a culturally and age-appropriate way. A significant goal of the program is helping youth to identify positive alternatives and make active, healthy choices for themselves.
The program uses a graffiti-painted van that goes out at night visiting the places where kids “hang out.” To forge relationships with these troubled youth, the StreetWise team establishes a consistent, familiar presence in the urban areas it visits. Counselors invite youth on board the StreetWise van for a break from the streets, an invitation which can be especially welcome in the dead of winter. Once engaged in conversation, they assess the youths’ conditions and living situations and initiate give-and-take about risky behaviors.