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OCO Couch Surfing Event to Raise Awareness of Oswego County’s Homeless

Staff members of Oswego County Opportunities prepare for upcoming “Couch Surfing” events to raise awareness of the plight of homeless youth in Oswego County. From left are: Marissa St. Onge, Rachael Donovan, Linda Parry, Ellen Lazarek, Shelby Cusson-LaRue and Toni Ross.

Staff members of Oswego County Opportunities prepare for upcoming “Couch Surfing” events to raise awareness of the plight of homeless youth in Oswego County. From left are: Marissa St. Onge, Rachael Donovan, Linda Parry, Ellen Lazarek, Shelby Cusson-LaRue and Toni Ross.

FULTON, NY – In Oswego County the face of homelessness is not that of youth living on the streets. While not as visible it is in larger cities, homelessness among youth in Oswego County does exist.

Staff members of Oswego County Opportunities prepare for upcoming “Couch Surfing” events to raise awareness of the plight of homeless youth in Oswego County. From left are: Marissa St. Onge, Rachael Donovan, Linda Parry, Ellen Lazarek, Shelby Cusson-LaRue and Toni Ross.
Staff members of Oswego County Opportunities prepare for upcoming “Couch Surfing” events to raise awareness of the plight of homeless youth in Oswego County. From left are: Marissa St. Onge, Rachael Donovan, Linda Parry, Ellen Lazarek, Shelby Cusson-LaRue and Toni Ross.

“The face of homelessness in Oswego County, is a young person spending the night on a friend’s couch for few nights, before moving on to the home of another friend or family relation,” explained OCO’s Christine Prevost. “This pattern of short-term stays is known as ‘couch surfing.’ OCO’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter provides young people with a safe place to stay while more permanent housing can be arranged.”

“With OCO losing its federal funding for the shelter, the theme of OCO’s annual Bowl-A-Fun is S.O.S., Save Our Shelter! All proceeds from the bowling tournament and fundraiser will used to continue shelter operations, until additional funding can be secured,” added Prevost.

In 2016, 1,538 young people identified the need for safe, stable and permanent housing, during their initial contact or intake with OCO.

That number includes young people who ran away from home, were abandoned or kicked out of their home for various reasons, young people who were staying in temporary or unsafe conditions and young people who were at risk for losing their current housing arrangement.

The figure also includes young people who were members of a homeless family or a family at risk for losing their housing.

“The shelter is an essential resource in our work with homeless youth.  Ideally, we can help young people to reconcile with their families and return home or to arrange for stable housing with other extended family members.  In some cases, however, returning home is not a safe or appropriate option. In 2016, 30 young people were housed at the shelter and received other supportive services from OCO’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter. Without the shelter, those 30 kids would not have had a safe place to stay,” said Prevost.

To raise awareness of the plight of homeless youth, members of OCO’s Bowl-A-Fun planning committee, staff from OCO’s Homeless Services program, and community volunteers will host demonstration of Couch Surfing on March 30 from 3 to 8 p.m. at the corner of East First and Bridge streets in Oswego and the Corner of Oneida Street and Route 481 in Fulton.

“Community volunteers and staff have volunteered their time to ‘sleep’ on an outdoor couch for 30 minutes each. There will be OCO staff at each site to distribute information, answer questions from the public, and offer suggestions as to how community members may help us in addressing this issue. Those wishing to volunteer at the Oswego location may do so by contacting Toni Ross at [email protected] or 315-342-7532 ext. 1648. To volunteer at the Fulton site contact me at [email protected] or 315-598-4705 ext. 1023,” said Prevost.

With Oswego County having more than double the state average for children and youth suffering abuse and maltreatment OCO’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter is a vital resource that in many cases offers the only place for youth to turn to for help.

OCO’s S.O.S. Bowl-A-Fun, which serves as a fundraiser for the Runaway and Homeless Shelter will be held April 29 at Lakeview Lanes in Fulton beginning at noon.

Team registration is now open and those interested may do so online at www.oco.org.

OCO 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 100 separate locations.

For more information, visit www.oco.org