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Project 16:49 has a new mission

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Shelly Birkelo
September 5, 2012

— When Project 16:49 got its start four years ago, it had a goal of providing Rock County's unaccompanied homeless teens with safe and stable housing.

But plans have since changed and the organizing group is heading in a new direction, said Ann Forbeck, project co-chairwoman.

Below are four of the group's latest developments:

New mission

The group's initial focus of filling a housing gap for those ages 16 to 17 has been expanded to serve more teens, including those in sixth through 12th grades.

"We heard some concerns that we were serving a small number of kids and that the project was expensive." Forbeck said. "So instead of serving 16 to 20 kids, we want to serve as many kids as we can and provide them not with just housing but with some case management services so they can connect with services in the community. This will enable Rock County's homeless teens to take action to achieve their goals."

During the last school year, the number of homeless teens in Rock County totaled 170. Of those, 80 were Janesville teens, she said.

Become a nonprofit

The original hope was to have an existing agency such as YWCA Rock County take Project 16:49 on as one of its own programs. But as of last spring, the YWCA changed its advisory role to serve only as a fiscal agent until Project 16:49 can obtain 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

"We're hoping within the next month to get our application together with an attorney who is donating tome to help us do that," Forbeck said.

Bylaws now need to be written and officers and a board of directors need to be selected.

Raise money and hire a leader

The original plan was to raise $1 million and open two homes. Now "we want enough operating funds for a year," Forbeck said.

To date, about $130,000 has been raised—enough to hire an executive director by the end of the year to handle intake and assessment of kids, plus provide referrals.

Become a central hub

Not all of unaccompanied teens need housing because they are either in a shelter, hotel, motel or are couch surfing, Forbeck said. The project wants to be a resource for kids without parents or guardians to provide other needed assistance.

"Maybe they need someone to show them how to apply for college and get financial aid or explain what documents are needed to get a job," she said.

The group now is committed to bringing services to kids wherever they are and envisions the kids coming to the project in a user-friendly way, she said.

"We're hoping to have some places for kids to come, and fairly close to the high schools, where they can be connected with resources and other agencies in the community," Forbeck said.



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