AmeriCorps VISTA member, Victoria Jackson, Victoria played an instrumental role in MDHA’s overall mission to make the experience of homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties rare, brief, and non-recurring with the creation of a comprehensive Youth Services Directory for young people seeking services. The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) brings together more than 85 shelters, housing and supportive services programs through their Homeless Management Information System (HMIS), a community-wide database serving 10,126 persons. Understanding that youth experiencing homelessness are far more likely to utilize community Wi-Fi hotpots on smartphones when choosing to seek services, Victoria transformed her directory into an online database on the MDHA resource page. Users will see a paragraph explaining the webpage, followed by links to different service areas such as housing, educational help, employment services, and LGBTQ-affirming services. The Youth Services Directory webpage incorporates user friendly features, including direct links to each program website, gender identity symbols indicating whether or not programs house transgender individuals. And, as a precautionary effort to provide clients with an added sense of security while seeking services, the webpage displays an escape button that immediately exits out completely.
Homelessness can be both visible and invisible. When there are encampments under the freeways, homelessness is visible. But when someone goes to school every day for a hot meal, or couch surfs for weeks on end that is when homelessness is invisible. Youth Homelessness is often invisible, and receiving feedback from young people who have experienced homelessness is imperative to finding a sustainable solution to it. As a result, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance’s AmeriCorps VISTA member, Victoria Jackson, has founded a Youth Action Board (YAB) that consists of individuals under the age of 25 who have experienced homelessness, foster care, or unstable housing. The YAB’s inaugural meeting was held in March, and Victoria facilitated the meeting as the members connected across agencies, discussed goals for the group, and possible marketing techniques to get more Youth Experts involved in the YAB. For their next meeting in April, they will establish governance if a quorum is present. The YAB will elect a Chair who will attend the Continuum of Care board meetings and report back to the group, as well as facilitate meetings and activities in which the YAB wishes to participate.
AmeriCorps VISTA Member Victoria Jackson serves with the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA). MDHA leads the development of an effective homeless response system to make the experience of homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties rare, brief, and non-recurring. Victoria has finished her work on the Youth Services Directory (YSD) and has sent it to every public middle and high school in Dallas and Collin Counties. The YSD is also on the MDHA website, which is more directly accessible to homeless youth and more cost-effective than the print version. She is working on the web page version of the YSD, which will change with every update on service providers, youth needs, and Continuum of Care (CoC) members. Victoria has converted the Housing Resource Guide (HRG) to an editing software and updated with relevant information. The HRG will be given to every recently-housed person in the CoC, and contains tools to help them become successful in their housing situation and personal goals. In addition, Victoria has begun to map the system of care in faith-based communities by reaching out to churches, mosques, and synagogues to join our Faith-Based Collaboration Committee. By figuring out how these organizations interact with each other and with non-faith-based organizations, the CoC will be able to better serve our homeless friends and neighbors.
AmeriCorps VISTA Member Victoria Jackson serves with the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA). MDHA leads the development of an effective homeless response system to make the experience of homelessness in Dallas and Collin Counties rare, brief, and non-recurring. Victoria continues her work on the Youth Services Directory (YSD). She has met with over 15 different organizations that serve homeless youth, runaway youth, and youth aging out of the foster care system. According to the State of the Homeless based on the 2017 Point in Time count there are 569 homeless youth in Dallas and Collin Counties. Through these dedicated and hard-working agencies, youth are able to work on life skills, job readiness, and savings accounts so that when they exit the program, each youth is ready to hold their own lease, work, and go to school. Throughout the YSD is a series of symbols that allow each young person or case manager to search specifically for programs that provide emergency housing, childcare, or house transgender individuals based on their gender identity. The goal for this feature is to direct clients to the agencies that are most suited for their needs, thereby preventing an excessive amount of referrals and allowing the client to take ownership of his or her own housing plan.
VISTA member, April Neal is serving with Youth and Family Counseling in Lewisville, TX. The mission of Youth and Family Counseling is to aid the families and children of Denton County, thereby creating healthy and productive individuals, families, and communities which will benefit the quality of life for all. In the month of April, she learned the importance of balance and time management. With good planning, April put together her second DINE- IN Fundraiser where she met a lot of people and potential clients for the agency. At the fundraiser, single moms inquired about counseling services for their children. Some parents also learned that about the free services offered to keep children and families healthy.
As a Volunteer Coordination VISTA at Youth Believing in Change (YBC) you will develop a volunteer program to provide support and mentorship to underprivileged children. Major functions will include developing a volunteer program to YBC to provide individual attention to students and families served. The VISTA will establish a method of recruiting, training, and retaining volunteers. The VISTA will develop an effective volunteer management database to capture all attributes of the volunteer cadre which will be used to demonstrate to potential funders the value of volunteer service to the agency. VISTAs serve their communities through indirect service. The programs developed by the Volunteer Coordination VISTA will endure for years, however the VISTA member will have limited interaction with YBC clients and will be based in an office setting. Applicants should possess exceptional written and oral communication skills, volunteer generation skills and a proficiency with Microsoft Excel.