National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families

Get to Know a Grantee: Bellefaire JCB

The RHY Clearinghouse developed the Get to Know a Grantee questionnaire to illustrate the great variety of youth-serving FYSB grantees, to share their insights on the work that they do, and to inspire collaboration and the sharing of experiences and ideas. We regularly share responses from grantees in the hope that you’ll learn more about the needs of runaway and homeless youth or, if you’re a grantee, that you’ll find some new approaches or ideas to inspire the work you do on behalf of vulnerable youth in your community. Contact us if you’d like to be featured. 

For this edition of Get to Know a Grantee, we spoke with Pamela Budak, Director of Community Services for Bellefaire JCB in Ohio. Located in Cleveland, Bellefaire JCB offers services to almost 22,000 youth and their families each year through more than 25 programs.

How long have you had a FYSB grant?

We got our Transitional Living Program grant in 1999, and have had a Basic Center Grant since 2006 and a Street Outreach grant since 2010. We also participated in the TLP Special Demonstration project from 2016 to 2018. We chose to focus on LGBTQ youth with that opportunity; we know it’s a vulnerable population that often lacks services specific to their needs. That demonstration project was a chance to elevate the available services and help the community understand those needs. It was a chance for us to use a “scattered site” approach rather than the dormitory-style housing in our traditional TLP. Some youth can handle that independence, and others have more trouble with it. It was a wonderful experience and a huge opportunity to learn more about helping young people with trauma. We’re saddened that it’s not being offered again, but maybe one day it will.

What other sources of funding are essential to your program?

We often pursue small local grants to augment programming. Currently we have one from the Begun Foundation, who support a lot of causes in the Cleveland area. They’re helping us address trafficking and train other organizations. Bellefaire is a large agency with 600-odd employees, many of whom are mental health therapists treating people with substance abuse and mental health issues. So a lot of our organizational funding comes from reimbursements from Ohio Medicaid.

What’s the primary need of homeless youth in your community?

They need supportive services and supportive adults above all. Their basic needs, including food, shelter, and health services, are often unmet due to the extreme poverty in Cuyahoga County and the city of Cleveland in particular.

What has been your most important collaboration with a local partner?

We partner well with schools and their McKinney-Vento liaisons. Our team is contacted frequently to offer support to youth in need. We receive many referrals from the schools for youth who need our services. We’ve had a handful of situations where the liaison identifies a youth who is managing to get themselves to school, and they contact us on our 24-hour hotline. We also go around and talk to the liaisons throughout the school year to stay connected and hear about any young people who may need services. Even if they haven’t referred a young person in a while, we make sure to keep our organization in their mind. We’re always trying to make sure we have great communication with them.

What sets your organization apart from other similar organizations?

Our administrative support organization, Wingspan Care Group, helps us share the costs for the business portions of our agency with other like-minded agencies. We are one of the largest providers of behavioral health services to children and families in the state of Ohio. We provide a diverse array of services to children and families including education, foster placement, adoption, residential treatment, school-based prevention services, and mental health and substance use disorder treatment.

What do you wish more people in your community (or the country) understood about youth homelessness?

Youth who are homeless have very different experiences than adults who are homeless, therefore the interventions and services for youth need to be tailored to their needs. These young people are often victims of abuse, human trafficking, and other traumatic experiences, so they need particularly supportive care. We did a campaign to raise awareness as well, that included these videos:

https://vimeo.com/93481095

https://vimeo.com/154879990