FULTON, NY – For the past 26 years Oswego County Opportunities’ Homeless Services has been a safe haven for abused and maltreated youth in Oswego County.
OCO Homeless Services provides 24-hour emergency services and shelter to youth.
Through a supportive, nurturing environment that empowers youth to gain the responsibility and decision making skills to attain their goals and have a successful future.
One of the most important aspects of this program is its Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter.
Recently federal funding for the shelter was eliminated and has jeopardized the future of the shelter.
When the board of directors for the Richard S. Shineman Foundation learned of this development they chose to award OCO a $50,000 grant in support of the shelter.
“We decided to step up and provide OCO with some bridge funding that will help them keep the shelter open until additional funding can be obtained,” said Richard S. Shineman Foundation executive director Karen Goetz. “We realize that if the shelter were to close it would be much more difficult for OCO to apply for funding. That, combined with the tremendous resource the shelter provides for our county, and the amount of youth it serves, played into our decision to assist in keeping it open.”
While Goetz and the other board members were aware of OCO’s programs they were surprised at the amount of people the agency serves and the impact its Runaway and Homeless Shelter has on Oswego County.
“I was shocked and sadden to see how many youth access OCO services. I know it sounds trite to say that ‘our children are our most important asset’ and that they are our future, but I firmly believe that. Helping youth navigate the tough times and helping them get on the path to success is essential to the health of our community,” said Goetz.
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.
OCO’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter consistently experiences a 96% occupancy rate.
“With the Richard S. Shineman Foundation’s mission of being a catalyst for change providing funding for OCO is a natural fit for us,” explained Goetz. “OCO provides so many services across the county. I don’t know where we would be if OCO was not here. They see a need and they step up to fill it or collaborate with other agencies to meet these needs. We’ve seen that when agencies work together there is a much greater outcome collectively. Collaborations make all agencies involved stronger, and OCO is excels at that.”
As part of its mission to be a catalyst for change in Oswego County, the Richard S. Shineman Foundation works with area non-profits to strengthen them and assist them in being more successful in achieving their missions.
“In addition to current programs we seek to find new programs that will also be catalysts for change across the county. We focus on funding programs in a number of areas including arts and culture, civic benefit, environment, religion, health and human services, historic preservation and economic revitalization. We are honored to be able to partner with such as vital organization as OCO,” added Goetz.
One of Oswego County’s largest employers, OCO provides more than 50 human service programs that touch the lives of approximately 20,000 county residents each year.
OCO’s mission is to build partnerships that improve the quality of life and create successful communities.
Visit OCO on the web at www.oco.org.
Oswego County Opportunities is a member agency of the United Way of Greater Oswego County.