CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Leading on Opportunity identified 45,000 disconnected young adults in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County. That means they don't have a home, are unemployed, or are not in school.
Research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health shows that many young adults in these situations have been in jail before.
It's why a local nonprofit, The Relatives, is seeking solutions to prevent more teens from becoming homeless. The organization was founded in 1974 and chose the name 'The Relatives' because young adults didn't want to admit they were going to a crisis shelter. Instead, they would tell friends or family that they were staying with 'a relative.'
The On Ramp Resource Center expanded into its permanent space on Freedom Drive to help 16-to 24-year-old adults in crisis and help them become healthy and productive members of the community.
Caitlin Donley, Director of Philanthropy for The Relatives, said they welcome young adults in crisis and understand to "meet them where they are."
"A lot of our clients have experienced severe trauma in their lifetime before they're getting to us," Donley told WCNC Charlotte. "So we recognize there's a mental health component that plays into everything that's going on. So we have to address all of those client needs at the same time."
Amber Graves first came to The Relatives as a teenager and is now the chairman of the Youth Action Board.
"If it wasn't for The Relatives help, right now, I cannot honestly say I would know where I'd be, because I'm not there. But I know from the route I was going, it probably would end up not good," said Graves.
Clients' services can be one-on-one case management or helping to cover basic needs, like a shower, hot meal and laundry.
There is also a focus on education workshops. Young adults are nearly 350% more at risk of becoming homeless if they don't have at least a GED.
The staff at The Relatives say the programs are working.
"In our housing program, about 89% of those who are stably housed through our housing program, remain stably housed six months after they received our services," said Lynn Cuddy, another employee at the organization.
Graves says that it also takes accountability on the client's end in order for the program to be successful.
"I know it sounds cliché because you hear it on social media, you hear the people in the streets," Graves said. "But never giving up and staying consistent and having a sturdy foundation of those things will help you build and grow within yourself."
If you need the services of the On Ramp Resource Center, they are open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also call their 24/7 crisis hotline.
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