YPSILANTI – Although research indicates that young adults have unique developmental needs, particularly when leaving systems of care and confinement, this reality is rarely reflected in programs and services offered to this population. Young adults often find they are too old to receive services aimed at youth, and often lack the support needed to fully access and utilize the one-size-fits-all approach of “adult services.”
To help address that dichotomy, faculty from the Eastern Michigan University School of Social Work have received a $221,680 grant to help create a program that provides housing security for young adults ages 18-24 experiencing homelessness, specifically as they transition out of juvenile detention facilities or jail within Washtenaw County.
The faculty members leading the efforts include Jennifer Kellman-Fritz, social work professor and director of the School of Social Work; Barbara Walters, social work professor; and Bonnie Miller, social work lecturer. The program will be aimed at providing immediate services, but also on building skills needed to promote self-efficacy and independent living.
As part of the program, reentry workers at the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office will work with the EMU program to identify these young adults prior to discharge and facilitate their transition into the Robert J. Delonis Center for temporary housing until longer term housing is arranged.
Also partnering with the program is Ypsilanti-based Youth Justice Fund, an organization that provides services to people who were under 18 at the time of sentencing but who were sentenced to adult facilities.
The overall intention of service delivery will be to interrupt the cycle of homelessness by providing temporary housing while delivering intensive case management services.
“We understand that homelessness among young adults is a complex issue that is compounded by systemic barriers, splintered service delivery, and developmentally incompatible service models,” said Walters. “This program is unique in that it focuses on providing a supportive transition out of care or containment facilities while also offering reentry support from a person-centered-planning perspective”
The program will entail four to six social work interns working on average 16 hours per week for two 15-week semesters, with interns beginning in the fall and winter semesters to ensure year-round service delivery.
“This internship will help me in the future by giving me the tools to think critically about my work with people in the field and how to deal with situations when they arise,” said Madison Larson, a current EMU Bachelor of Social Work Student Intern. “This internship has shown me justice is not so black and white—it’s dynamic and sometimes ‘justice’ is not actually justice.”
Interns will participate in trainings, including young adult development, person-centered-planning and trauma-informed service delivery. Students will work both in-person and virtually to best meet the needs of participants while also abiding by public health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected that the grant will serve 80 clients in some capacity during the 2.5-year cycle.
“Jail and prison are not always the answer,” Larson said. “Sometimes they can put things into perspective, but other times they do more harm than good. Servicing my community through my internship has made me feel proud that I can actually make change from within the system rather than just learning about what is wrong.”
A Growing Legacy: Community Impact of Investment by the Herrick Foundation
Through the support of the Herrick Foundation, the EMU School of Social Work has been able to establish, expand, and maintain programming to assist at-risk and under-served members of the Washtenaw County community.
Through two previous grants, EMU has established the Adolescent Diversion Program (ADP) and the Jail Reentry Support Program. The ADP diverts first-time juvenile offenders away from traditional,more punitive juvenile justice systems and works with the family on transitioning plans after the individual completes the program. The ADP has been in existence for eight years. The Jail Reentry Support Program focuses on decreasing the cycle of arrest, incarceration, release and recidivism that is so often seen in the jail setting.
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.