Helping Local Young Adults Move Forward on a Path of Stability.

Young adults are known to have energy, aspirations, resiliency and untapped talent. But for some, a lack of education, job skills, direction, financial stability or comprised health may lead them down a rough path – a path that could be hard to turn around and move toward independence, stability and life success.

 

Young adults ages 16 to 24 who are not connected to education or work are referred to as Opportunity Youth (OY). There are more than 8,000 OY in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area and approximately 6.7 million OY in the United States. United Way of the Midlands is aiming to help local OY become connected to education and work – the very systems and institutions that will help them succeed. Over the last three years, more than 40 agencies from Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie Counties, and government, non-profit and for-profit employers, have joined together to research and improve the quantity and quality of services available for OY in the community by forming the Opportunity Youth Alliance. 

 

The research showed that most services are targeted to 19-year-olds and younger, and there is little alignment or formal partnerships across service providers. Alliance members validated this conclusion and added that the community’s greatest need was not to add more services, but rather effectively and efficiently connect youth to the most appropriate services. This type of service is often referred to as navigation. 
Community Spotlight: Opportunity Youth

One Alliance member organization Nebraska Children and Families Foundation (NCFF) operates Project Everlast, which provides navigation service, but it is only available to young adults with foster care experience. With support and leadership from the Alliance, United Way of the Midlands and NCFF collaborated to leverage the collective resources and expertise to create a pilot program with the primary purpose of offering navigation services for all OY. This pilot is called the Opportunity Youth Hub.

The Hub staff complete an assessment with the OY to determine their strengths, needs and goals and then connects them to the appropriate local services. The first goal is to ensure an OY’s stability. This could mean connecting them to services such as housing supports, mental, physical and/or dental services, clothing assistance and food access.

 

The Hub began serving clients on June 1, 2017 with the goal of servicing 100 OY in a year. At the end of the pilot year, the Hub has served 200 OY in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area.

The Hub works directly with the Alliance members to provide direct navigation services to OY as well as indirect support by sharing local resource information with human service professionals working with OY. Once a client has secured basic supports and stability, the Hub works to help connect them back to education, training and/or employment. The hope is that the young adult will continue their path toward prosperity, but the reality is that they will face continued barriers as they develop the skills and knowledge to maintain stability. Therefore, the Hub services are not just for re-engagement activities. They also act as a safety net for young adults who are on the path to stability. Many times a young adult’s progress can be impeded by simply not knowing there is a needed resource available to them. The Hub works to ensure that a “slip” does not turn into a “slide” in terms of an OY’s progress.

United Way is thankful for its Women United affinity group that has chosen to raise funds for OY to move the initiative from a pilot to full implementation. You can also support this program that has filled a previously unmet need in the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area.

Opportunity Youth Alliance Members:
  • Avenue Scholars
  • Boys Town
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands
  • Boys Town of Iowa
  • Carole’s House of Hope
  • Central Plains – PALS
  • Child Saving Institute
  • Children’s Square USA
  • Chesterman Coca-Cola
  • D2 Center
  • Early Childhood Services – Teen and Young Parent Program
  • Empowerment Network
  • Family Housing Advisory Services – Opportunity Passport
  • Goodwill Industries
  • Heartland Family Service – Youth Links
  • Heartland Workforce Solutions
  • Hope Center for Kids
  • Job Corps
  • Latino Center of the Midlands
  • MAACH
  • MCC – PROTO program
  • MCC – Gateway to College
  • Midlands Mentoring Partnership
  • Nebraska Children and Families Foundation
  • Nebraska Children’s Home Society
  • Nebraska Families Collaborative
  • Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation
  • No More Empty Pots
  • Omaha Housing Authority
  • Omaha Home for Boys
  • Omaha Public Schools – Multiple Pathways
  • Opportunity Passport
  • Operation Youth Success
  • Project Everlast
  • Promise Partners
  • Region 6
  • ResCare
  • The Bike Union
  • UNO Civic and Social Responsibility
  • Urban League of NE
  • YMCA
  • Youth Emergency Services
  • Youth Policy Institute of Iowa
  • Additional members are still being added

Jacob

Jacob struggles with mental health and has been in and out of institutionalized settings for most of his teenage years. His family was not supportive, and he really needed a different option but did not have the financial or mental capability. Jacob found his way to the Hub. The Hub coach assisted Jacob in enrolling in a local transitional living program. He now lives in a safe place with 24-hour support including an independent living specialist to help him obtain employment, while also ensuring Jacob actively participates in outpatient mental health services.

Michael

Michael was aging out of a youth detention center without a plan for his future or a place to live. A case manager at the youth detention center contacted the Hub, and prior to his release a Hub coach met with Michael and was able to arrange for him to rent an apartment.  Using “Flex Funds,” the Hub paid for the first two months of rent and assisted Michael in securing basic items for the apartment. Then Michael was connected to a job coach at Goodwill and was able to secure employment. He is now entering his fourth month of stable housing and has been working for two months.

Zach

Zach was incarcerated at the Nebraska Correctional Youth Facility. Facing release, he knew that returning to his previous life and environment would present the same temptations and activities, and he wanted better for himself. Corrections staff connected him with the Hub, where he shared his dreams of a career in music technology. However, he couldn’t afford the tuition and due to his criminal background, he was not eligible for a loan. He was going to leave jail with no money, an unhealthy support system and very little hope.  Hub staff connected Zach to a transitional housing program at Youth Emergency Services. Once stable, he was connected to Heartland Workforce Solutions and enrolled in a youth workforce program. This program was able to pay for tuition and Zach is currently a student at Metropolitan Community College.