BCFS Commits $225,000 Challenge Grant to Abilene’s “Our House”

Commitment is in addition to $250,000 in capital and construction costs BCFS has already invested in the transitional living home

Last December, BCFS Health and Human Services (BCFS HHS) celebrated the grand opening of its transitional living home for homeless teens and young adults, called “Our House.” Now, BCFS HHS’ parent company, BCFS, is committing a $225,000 challenge grant over three years to solidly plant the organization’s footprint and mission in Abilene for years to come. The grant must be matched by the community, and is in addition to the $250,000 in capital and construction costs BCFS has already invested in Our House, and the $194,000 contributed by the city and private donors.

“We are investing in the Our House program because we believe in its mission, its effectiveness, and its ability to make Abilene a better place for everyone who calls this city their home,” said Kevin C. Dinnin, BCFS President and CEO.

“With the support of community leaders, private funders, and our sister agencies, Hendrick Medical Center and Hardin-Simmons University, I know the Abilene community has the passion and motivation needed to get our youth off the streets and onto the path of stable, independent and successful lives. Our House is proud to be part of that mission.”

According to the Abilene Independent School District, an estimated 981 students were homeless at the end of the 2010-2011 academic year. Foster youth are especially vulnerable to homelessness. In fact, within 18 months of aging out of the state foster care system, 50 percent of youth struggle to put a roof over their heads.

Our House addresses the issue of homelessness head-on and provides a pipeline into BCFS HHS’ Abilene Transition Center, which houses a comprehensive network of community organizations, as well as private and government partners, that makes accessing resources simple for at-risk youth.

“Comprehensive services, like those coordinated through BCFS HHS’ Abilene Transition Center, are seen as lifesavers when you consider the overwhelming likelihood of foster youth and those in the juvenile justice system becoming homeless, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and involved in crime,” said Johnny Nguyen, Program Director for BCFS HHS’ Abilene Transition Center.

The vision for Our House was sparked by Abilene’s Christian Community Development Corporation (CCDC), whose board members included passionate and influential community members like Randy Perkins and Nancy Capra. At CCDC’s request, BCFS HHS took on the project of bringing Our House from a dream, to reality.

Today, Our House provides a safe haven for males between the ages of 18-23. The decision to serve young men exclusively was based on the higher demand for housing for young men than young women. Plus, there are currently more options available to young women.

“It is critical that these young and impressionable young men have a safe place just for them. Because of the struggles they’ve faced in foster care or as a result of other traumas, they are extraordinarily vulnerable to becoming victimized and influenced by older individuals who are also coping with the issues surrounding homelessness,” said Nguyen.

Some youth may need help from BCFS HHS’ Our House for a month, while another young adult may need to stay for a year. BCFS HHS designs each youth’s transition plan based on their specific strengths and needs. While young adults aren’t charged rent in the traditional sense, they are required to save money. This is put aside in a fund available to them when they leave to use toward a down payment for an apartment. Ultimately, this is just one of many ways BCFS HHS helps stabilize and develop youth toward becoming independent, law-abiding adults who aren’t reliant on government or social services.