Pictured are Donna Carroll, Optimist President Jay Downs, and Jennifer Felkel.

Homelessness is, and has been for some time, a front-burner topic in the news and even in our community. A situation that is a sub-topic and is prevalent here in the Irmo community is that of unaccompanied youth.

Donna Carroll and Jennifer Felkel, representing District 5, recently spoke on the topic at the St. Andrews Optimist breakfast meeting. Carroll is a social worker, and Felkel is the Coordinator of Parenting and Social Services for the District.

Youth who fall into this category can potentially come from households  they leave to escape abuse, household violence, abandonment, neglect, or financial crisis. Since they have no legal guardian—therefore no permanent home—they frequently move from location to location, either staying with friends or even on the street. The District concentrates on learning why the youth are unaccompanied, in order to transition to establishing a more normal, predictable environment. Carroll termed this approach as moving from why to how.

In 1987, national legislation passed that protects the rights of unaccompanied and/or homeless kids. In Greenville, a new model called a Dream Center has been established. The center takes a holistic approach to creating awareness among the youth, again focusing on the why-to-how thought process, with the goal again of establishing normalcy and ultimately a permanent way out of the cycle.

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