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Transitional Youth Services available

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(Editor's note: The 10th annual Fraser, Ltd. Festival of Trees is being featured from now through Friday, Dec. 3, at the FARGODOME. The West Fargo Pioneer is involved annually with the event, decorating an artificial tree that will be among the 150 on display for the public to view. A special 10th anniversary highlight will be the "Cookies with the Claus Family" celebration scheduled for Friday, Nov. 26, from 1 to 4 p.m. This free activity will include photos with the Claus family, Games Galore, sleigh rides and more. At the conclusion of the festival, the decorated trees will be distributed to area families who would not otherwise have a tree for the holidays. It is estimated that 50,000 people will pass through the FARGODOME for various events during this period of time, also allowing those visitors the opportunity to view the trees. Fraser, Ltd. events such as the Festival of Trees go a long way in helping provide funding for a variety of programs. The following story was supplied by Fraser, Ltd. Staff member Sarah Kennedy, Therapeutic Case Manager, focusing on the Stepping Stones Resource Center, one of the many support and service programs offered by Fraser, Ltd.)

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Fraser, Ltd.'s Stepping Stones Resource Center (SSRC) celebrated its one year anniversary in September. SSRC has grown from its inception and now serves about 90 young people a month, revealing a unique culture and picture of what young adults in the Fargo/Moorhead metro area experience as they walk the thin line between homeless and housed. Though SSRC is available for individuals 14-22 years old, the center experiences a median age of 19 years old. Guests at the center have reported characteristics about their life which has shaped how Fraser, Ltd. provides services for this disenfranchised population.

SSRC conducts convenience sample surveys with individuals accessing the center to increase the understanding of what social barriers SSRC guests are facing. Based on the collected data, it has been found that 53% of SSRC guests meet the Federal definition of homeless. Within the last 30 days of completing the survey, 19% report having spent one or more nights in a homeless shelter, 14% indicate that they have spent one or more nights in a car, and 20% report that they have spent one or more nights on the street. In addition to concern regarding a safe environment, 54% report having to skip or miss meals due to a lack of resources. The data being reported by guests at the center not only helps us identify the unique needs of this population but further shapes programming and the delivery of services offered.

It was clear that safe and available housing was among the top needs of guests at the center. This led to the opening of Fraser, Ltd.'s Transitional Living and Emergency Shelter pilot program which opened Oct. 11, 2010, offering homeless young adults (ages 18-26) a safe living environment in a residential neighborhood. Food, clothing, personal care items, a single bed in their own bedroom and one on one support from licensed certified social workers and trained direct support providers allows the residents to focus on developing and attaining individual goals. The overall goal of the program and the residents is to overcome the barriers to self-sufficiency and transition out of the program to an independent living status. This may mean obtaining a job, enrolling in higher education opportunities, and signing a lease on their own apartment. This pilot project offers 6 beds at full capacity.

Stepping Stones Resource Center and the Transitional Living/Emergency Shelter programs would not be possible without the support of the Fargo/Moorhead community. Both programs are recipients of the funds provided through the Fraser, Ltd. Festival of Trees. With the great efforts of special events like the Festival of Trees, Fraser, Ltd. will be able to continue to provide resources and assistance to the homeless and at-risk young adult population in the community.

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