Project Footsteps

Report date
February 2015

What has been most instrumental to your progress?

The youth engaging the program was crucial. The mission of our program was to inspire, empower and prepare the residents of the participating homeless shelters to have more capacity and involvement in leading the organization. Without the youth accepting this challenge and being willing to step outside of their comfort zones, this work would have not been successful.
The openness and transparency of the 4 agencies who partnered with us to host the promise youth in action programs. They were able to defy the odds and prioritize this. Without there support it would have been impossible to implement this mission. Though this process was not as easy as we may have assumed, being able to spend time nurturing and furthering relationships made this possible. Developing trust, communication, and a common sense of urgency helped.
Allison Wesley, who was the homeless young adult who pioneered Promise has been the most crucial element of this all. Her instincts, know how and over all determination made this work possible. She kept us on track and focused. When things got hard she reminded us all of why we do this and the importance in finding unique ways to liberate homeless youth.

Key lessons learned

It was much harder that we thought getting agencies to be open to this. We met with over 15 agencies and right away, we felt sense of discouragement because this was simply not a priority to them. If it didn’t have anything to do with crisis management, then they were really closed off. So much of our time spent was helping them undo how they have been trained and seasoned to work with this population of youth.
We are operating this program at 4 homeless shelters as we speak; which are just a fraction of the total amount of agencies in the TC area. However, these folks are trendsetters and we hope they can inspire other agencies to add this value to their work:
Hope street
Hope street CVI
Lincoln Place
Lindquist apartments

Part of our challenge now is continuing to get the support to continue those programs because we don’t want to stop simply because the grant period is over. Of course, we had our mishap in the re-applying process however, we are going to re-apply in fall for the innovation funding. Until then we have to continue to operate these programs because youth are engaged and this is bigger than funding, this is an opportunity to create a whole new pavement when it comes to empowering this population and bringing more innovation and experience to creating solutions. So we’re going to stick with it!

Reflections on the community innovation process

The most important piece of this work is that it was innovated by a homeless young person. That in itself redefine tradition in the non profit sector. Very rarely are the beneficiaries of a program or service, involve din creating said program or service. This is so often talked about in our community but very rarely done. Innovation is about doing it in a way that is different from how its been done. This work is the redefinition of innovation. If we would have taken a different approach, we would have not gotten anywhere.

Progress toward an innovation

The most important piece of this is that we have been able to get agencies and their respective leadership engaged in this when we thought it would be impossible. The pick up line was, “HI, we would like to empower the youth here to hold this place more accountable and allow them to participate in leading this effort and ensuring that we are solution oriented, not just crisis management?” Essentially their ability to undo what they have been taught or seasoned to learn was huge. This is innovation. Promise as a program is innovation in itself. We have been thrilled with the results and even more excited about continuing this as we have over 50 youth engaged. There is so much more to come from this and so much more to do.

What's next?

We plan to continue to develop and further the Youth In action councils we have been able to develop at the 4 agencies. This is priority and pretty much all that we are going to focus on . The real hurdle is that we don’t have funding to continue this so managerially this is going to be a feat to continue but we must. The youth engaged understand our situation and are willing to help fundraise to keep each of their councils running.
We are going to begin approach other foundations with our success story in hopes of getting their support.

If you could do it all over again...

We thought that folks would be open to this idea. We met more closed doors than we thought possible. So that would be the advice, we forgot one thing in being change agents; this stuff takes time and persistence mixed with a little bit of craziness!

One last thought

Through the Youth in Action process we began hearing very similar things from young people, the limitations they have to opportunity considering the systemic barriers they face as it pertains to taking steps forward in society. They talked about having the right connections in the community.
This triggered Project Footsteps program team to create a movement/initiative called “Uptown Inspired” which is dedicated to ensuring that youth we meet through Promise can garner the right connections in the community to purse their goals, dreams and pursuit to happiness.
Uptown Inspired is a simple campaign, we have been working over time to collect Time, Treasure or Talent commitments from individuals, businesses, foundations, etc… who want to help young people make steps forward.
For example, we set up a partnership with Reuse Cycle- a business in Uptown that has committed to providing bikes to youth who would be willing to come in and build their own bike at Reuse Cycle. This is one of many examples where a business has stepped forward to help in a meaningful way that is within their limits.