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OCO Seeks Volunteer Host Homes

OSWEGO, NY – You can change a young person’s life in just one night. Oswego County Opportunities’ Youth & Family Services invites community members to make a difference in a young person’s life by opening their heart and home and becoming a volunteer host home.

OCO’s Youth & Family Services is currently seeking families and individuals in Oswego County who would like to volunteer to be a host home. Host homes families provide runaway or homeless youth with a safe, temporary place to stay while Youth & Family Services’ staff members work with the youth to achieve a more permanent living situation.

“We are looking for host homes of any style,” said Rural Host Home Youth Specialist, Melissa Crofoot. “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.”

Crofoot explained that each host home is certified through the NYS Office of Children & Family Services with each family receiving a thorough orientation and monthly training.

“We provide our host families with an understanding of what youth development is and what our philosophy is towards helping youth. We also provide 24 hour support to all of our host home families,” she said.

Host home families also enjoy the flexibility of choosing their own schedules depending on how often they want to provide shelter for a runaway or homeless youth.

Host home families are also able to make other decisions such as specifying the age or gender of the youth they wish to help.

An in-depth interview and screening process with both the host home volunteer and the youth in crisis insures that there will be a successful match between the youth and the host family.

“Our host families have appropriate expectations of the youth coming into their home. Youth in our Host Home Program come to us through our Youth Emergency Services (YES!). We make sure that the youth understands what those expectations are and that they are willing to abide by them,” added Crofoot.

Those who currently serve as host families have found it to be a very rewarding experience and are happy to be helping a young person in need.

“Being a host home gives me and my family a chance to give back to the community,” said one host home provider. “We do this as a family and have hosted several youth. These are kids that are in crisis. They are scared and confused. We give them a safe place to stay, a warm bed and a hot meal.  We have had some kids stay with us that had not had those basic things in several weeks. Some youth only stay for a night, others stay for a couple of weeks. The youth are well screened and the support I get as a host home from the Youth & Family Services’ staff is outstanding. We have never had a problem with any teen that has come to stay with us. They understand that they are a guest. They want to be in a safe place and we are pleased to be able to offer them the safe place they are looking for. I would encourage anyone that had thought about being a host home to do it.”

For the young person in crisis, spending just one night in a host home, rather than on the street, can have a profoundly positive effect their future.

“At first I was really scared about staying at a host home, but once I was there they made me feel like I were at home. It changed my outlook on my life,” said one youth.

“One night can make a difference,” added Crofoot. “I invite community members to join us in our effort to help runaway and homeless youth.  Become a host home and experience for yourself the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a difference in a young person’s life by temporarily allowing them to stay in a welcoming and non-judgmental environment.”

Funding for OCO’s Rural Host Home program is provided by US Department of Health and Human Services through the Rural Host Home Project Grant.

For more information on becoming a Rural Host Home or the OCO’s Youth & Family Services, call Crofoot at 342-7532.