Local shelter helps youths facing crisis situations

Local shelter helps youths facing crisis situations

ALABASTER, AL (WBRC) - A youth service center in Alabaster is not only getting young adults off the streets, they are working to reunite them with their family through counseling services.

Family Connection has a mission to build up the community's most vulnerable children, teens and families.

"Family Connection is a multi-service non-profit. We have three areas we focus on," said Executive Director, Susan Johnston. "We focus on counseling support in the schools for students, we provide anti-bullying and truancy prevention services and safe place services. And then it focuses on safety for young people in crisis situations."

Right now Family Connection is caring for 12 young people.

The shelter has 18 beds. Six of those are designated for runaways and homeless youth. The other 12 are referred by the court and are currently in a crisis situation.  They need counseling support and a safe place to stay.

"Our shelter in Shelby County is a 24 hour, 7 day a week. It is open to young people in crisis," said Johnston. "They can call us, they can walk up to our door and we can assist them and plug them in to the resources they need."

The program also has a shelter in Birmingham. It is a walk-in, drop-in center for homeless young people living on the streets. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Johnston says they see an uptick in those needing services close to the holiday season.

"At lot of times young people leave home for different reasons. Whether they don't feel safe or there is family conflict, said Johnston. "And the holidays are very stressful a lot of times so young people are feeling separated, there is a lot of anxiety. It could be financial. There is a lot of stress going on in the family. So we do see a little bit of a rise in the young people needing safety in our shelter and counseling support."

Right now there are 46 Safe Place sites in the community. Family Connection is the licensed agency that implements the program locally.

"We cover all of Shelby County, the city of Hoover and parts of Birmingham where we recruit sites to be a Safe Place site. We train that site. We go in the school and educate the young people how to access that site if they get in a crisis situation," said Johnston.

Johnston shared with us two unique situations that happened with her recently:

The last month I have had the most unique situations happen in my whole time of being here. I was sitting here at my desk and I heard the doorbell ring and I went to the door and there was two young girls standing there and said that they needed help and they had heard that we could help them. And certainly I invited them in and began to talk to them and found out they were twin girls and they had learned about our shelter that they could come here and get help through a Safe Place presentation. And so they ended up staying in our shelter for awhile and we were able to find a placement for them. That happened and then two weeks later, I saw a young man walk across the front window here and I went to the door and opened the door and he said, 'I heard you could help us.' Turns out he was a 16-year-old man, young person, he had a backpack on and he said, 'I can't stay with my family anymore, I heard I could come here and you guys would help us.' And so I was so touched by that. Like I said, I've been here 37 years. It just reminds me of the ministry and the need for young people to have a safe place to go. So, I am so fortunate and so blessed that young people know they can come here and get the help that they need.

Another program that is available called TXT 4 HELP. You can text 69866 and you will get a text back telling you the nearest Safe Place location. If you respond to that text, someone will contact you and help you through your crisis and give you the resources you need to get assistance.


Providing basic necessities for for each of the youth is not cheap.

"These are young people. They do need a lot of things. A lot of items," said Johnston. "Personal care items, they need all things that you would need for your family. We need that but we need it quadrupled."

There are several ways you can help each of the children staying at Family Connection.

"There are other ways that people can volunteer and help. Whether they do a collection, can food drive, personal hygiene drive, or they may want to come on our campus and help do some needed things that we need around our campus."

Right now, Family Connection is holding several fundraisers to stock their pantry and be able to provide basic needs for the young adults.

You can participate in the Christmas ornament sponsorship, purchase a poinsettia or purchase a Full Moon Pork Butts or Turkey Breast during the Full Moon fundraiser. The money from each of these fundraisers will help provide food, personal hygiene items and small gifts for children in the shelter.

If you want to learn more about Family Connection, click here.

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