November is National Runaway Prevention Month

OSWEGO, NY – In recognition of November being National Runaway Prevention Month OCO’s Homeless Services will be busy spreading the word and educating the community on the issue of homeless youth in Oswego County.

Staff members from OCO Homeless Services will be educating the public on what services are available for homeless youth in the county and what they can do to help.

Each year, OCO’s Homeless Services program provides services (food, clothing, shelter, and advocacy and case management services) to hundreds of homeless youth in Oswego County.

In 2013, OCO received 897 calls to its 24-hour Crisis Hotline (315-342-7618) from at-risk, runaway, or homeless youth.

In response to their needs 219 homeless youth received appropriate clothing and more than 1,240 survival aid packs (food, clothing, hygiene items, etc.) were distributed.

According to Prevention Services Coordinator for OCO Crisis and Development Services Kathleen Knopp, homeless youth in Oswego County may not be found in the “normal” places.

“Homeless youth probably will not be sleeping under a bridge or in a cardboard box in an alley way. Most homeless youth in the county do what is called couch surfing; moving from friend to friend sleeping on a couch, floor, or wherever someone has room for them,” said Knopp.

To help bring awareness to this issue, staff members from OCO Homeless Services & PATH (Program to Assist Teenage Homeless) will be hosting a “couch surfing” demonstration on November 14 from 3 – 6 p.m. at Backstreet Books & Bistro, 201 Oneida St., Fulton.

As part of the demonstration, staff members will be on hand to answer questions about runaway and homeless youth and provide information as to how the community can get involved.

“A major way community members can help a homeless/runaway youth is to volunteer to be a Host Home,” said Knopp. “By volunteering to open up their homes for one or two nights a year, someone can make a difference in the life of a runaway/homeless youth.”

Knopp added that another way the community can help a homeless/runaway youth is to make a donation of gently used clothing, hygiene supplies, and non-perishable food.

Homeless Services staff maintains a donation closet containing these items and are always looking for help keeping it stocked.

“If you or your organization / club would like to help sponsor the OCO Homeless Services Emergency Closet, please contact Homeless Services staff at 315-342-7532. This year, we will also be hosting a donation drive at local area high schools during the month of November. Additional collection boxes can be found at the OCO main office (Oneida Street, Fulton) or the Midtown office located in the Midtown Plaza next to JoAnn Fabrics,” said Knopp.

For more information about the Host Home program, or to find out other ways you can help runaway/homeless youth, please contact Jill Fratangelo at OCO Homeless Services at 315-342-7532, or email [email protected]

OCO, Inc. is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966.

A member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, OCO provides more than 50 vital services throughout 80 separate locations.

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