SARASOTA, Fla. July 27, 2018 – “I was alone, living out of my car in the Walmart Parking lot for two months.” Keenan was just 17.
Keenan’s father was never around. His mother left Florida to help his brother who was facing criminal charges in another state. Keenan stayed with his grandmother until her boyfriend kicked him out after an argument over the privacy and safety of his belongings. Keenan went from couch to couch at friends’ and other relatives’ homes but eventually found it easiest and safest to sleep in his car.
This is a glimpse into a reality all too common right here in our community. There are an estimated 400 to 600 unaccompanied youth in Sarasota County. Homeless young adults, ages 16 – 24, come from a history of insufficient support systems, various types of abuse, episodes in and out of the foster care system, parents with addiction, and homelessness as children. As they enter adulthood, they are expected to become productive members of society, but the extreme privilege gaps between them and their peers make them vulnerable to a cycle of poverty and homelessness.
The needs of these vulnerable young adults are not going unnoticed. The Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation generously awarded Harvest House $240,000 in support of transformational services for families and youth. Harvest House’s New Heights is the most comprehensive program serving unaccompanied homeless youth in the region. With this grant, Harvest House’s New Heights will continue its outreach and case management services, transitional housing, and emergency shelter.
New Heights participants work with a case manager to set and track goals in seven key areas: Vocation, Education, Social, Financial, Health, Leadership, and Dreams. The program is completely free for youth; instead of paying rent and program fees, they work on a savings plan. Youth learn budgeting and financial life skills on their journey towards sustainability and independence. In addition, monthly outings help them develop social skills, cultivate responsibility and punctuality, expose them to various careers and cultural experiences, and create happy memories.
Keenan never knew the true power of community until he learned about Harvest House from his Take Stock in Children mentor. His New Heights case manager describes Keenan as “a very driven young man. He’s always wanted a better life and nothing will stop him from earning it for himself. For the first time in his life, he had his own room, a community of peers overcoming similar obstacles, and a network of support that is here to lift him up from every angle.”
“Our youth and families are full of goodness and hope,” said Erin Minor Executive Director of Harvest House. “They deserve a real chance at life. With the support of the Barancik Foundation, we can offer tailor-made robust services providing opportunities for upward social mobility.”
“Organizations like Harvest House are vital to the wellbeing of our community,” said Barancik Foundation President and CEO Teri A Hansen. “The issues facing homeless families and youth are complex. We support Harvest House because their comprehensive approach has created pathways for countless families and youth to achieve their dreams.”
At the tender age of 17, Keenan was left behind, kicked out, and alone, yet still took responsibility for his destiny. He’s now working as a Patient Care Technician in Sarasota and moved out of New Heights two weeks ago into his own home. Keenan’s advice to any peers that might be homeless or at-risk: “I encourage you to apply to New Heights. This program will give you a safe place to stay and love and support that you wouldn’t normally get.”
About The Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation
The Charles and Margery Barancik family has long believed in the power of philanthropy to shape our world and enrich the lives of all people. It was the expression of this belief that led them in 2014 to establish the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation—a private, family foundation located in Sarasota, Florida. The Barancik Foundation creates initiatives and awards grants in Sarasota and beyond in the areas of education, humanitarian causes, arts and culture, the environment, and medical research. Visit BarancikFoundation.org to learn more.