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OCO Couch Surfing Event To Raise Awareness Of Oswego County’s Homeless

Written by: John DeRousie, Custom Marketing Solutions
FULTON, NY – As part of OCO’s recognition of November as National Runaway Prevention Month, members from OCO’s Crisis and Development Services will be “couch surfing” at Walmart on Route 3 in Granby. Scheduled to held Nov. 22 from 4 to 10 p.m. the goal of the event is to raise awareness of the plight of homeless youth in Oswego County and the services that OCO offers to help combat this issue and provide assistance to those in need.

Health Educator Toni Ross, of OCO’s YES! Program explained, “We want to impress upon our community that homelessness does indeed exist in Oswego County.  In our county homelessness is not so much people living on the street and sleeping in boxes. For homeless youth in Oswego County it’s going from friend to friend or relative to relative, couch to couch as they attempt to find a place to stay. Our couch surfing event is meant to help convey that to the community.  During the event we will distribute information regarding homlessness in Oswego County, answer questions regarding the services that OCO offers, offer suggestions as to how community members may help us in addressing this issue, and provide information in hopes that we will encourage community members to become a host home.”

According to Ross the issue of homeless youth in Oswego County is becoming more pervasive. “Each year OCO’s YES! program provides services to hundreds of homeless youth in Oswego County. In 2010 YES! received 441 calls to its 24-hour hot line from runaway, homeless or at-risk youth, with more than 300 receiving basic needs services such as food, clothing and shelter as well as on-going case support services. In addition YES! made 1,146 referrals to youth for health, mental health, social, and other services,” said Ross.

With the number of homeless youth increasing, the need for Host Homes continues to grow.  One way in which the YES! Program provides support to homeless youth is through volunteer Host Home families. Host Home families open up their homes to youth that have runaway or have nowhere else to go. Staff from OCO YES! works with the youth to reconcile with families whenever possible and to empower the youth to make the correct choices. Ross said the program is currently recruiting families who would like to open their heart and their home to provide a safe, temporary place to stay while YES! staff members work with the youth to achieve a more permanent living situation. “We are looking for host homes of any style, from parents and grandparents to non-parents, from single households to large households.  All you need is the availability of an extra bed, a private space for a youth, and a big heart,” said Ross.

For more information on OCO’s Youth Emergency Services program (YES!), or to have a representative speak to your group or organization, contact Ross at 315-592-0810.

Funding for OCO’s Youth Emergency Services (YES!) is provided by the NYS Office of Children and Family Services, through the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

One of Oswego County’s largest employers, OCO’s workforce of more than 650 employees and 1,000 volunteers provide more than 50 human services programs that touch the lives of more than 28,000 each year. As OCO celebrates its 45th anniversary it is on a roll to continue its mission of helping people, supporting communities, changing lives, and improving the quality of life for Oswego County residents. For more information on OCO, a member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County, visit their website at www.oco.org