The Children’s Shelter broadened its mission in 2015 to include an independent living program [GetREAL24] for young adults, ages 18 and older who were preparing to or had “aged-out” of foster care. In 2014, the CES conducted a feasibility study to analyze the need for an independent living program for youth in foster care. As a result of the study, the CS discovered that there was no apartment-based independent living facility in AR with both housing and a life-skills training/ mentoring program. With approximately 5% of the state foster youth “aging out” each quarter, the feasibility study showed that the lack of safe and stable housing options, and independent living support for these youth was resulting in suicide, homelessness, and/or incarceration. In the summer of 2015, with the financial support of the Children’s Emergency Shelter Foundation, the CES expanded its mission and implemented GR24 through the purchase and remodel of a 24-unit apartment complex adjacent to the current CES home. GR24 took in its first residents on October 12, 2016. It has served a total 19 youth in foster care, providing them a place to live independently among their peers while obtaining the life-skills necessary to become successful, contributing members of society. It has 1 full-time program coordinator, -full-time life-skills coach, and a part-time life coach. Numerous volunteers from the community serve as sponsor families and mentors to the residents.
On December 1, 2016, GR24 was awarded national recognition under the “State Farm Neighborhood Assist Program” for its active role in improving the community. GR24 was one of 40 community causes nationwide selected, out of a total of 2000 applicants, for this award.
In February 2017, the Children’s Emergency Shelter was awarded “Nonprofit of the Year” by Arkansas Business Magazine for its advances in caring for foster care children, particularly the expansion of services through GetREAL24.
GR24 was the first program in the state of AR to offer full, “wrap-around” services on a campus for youth in foster care ages 18 & older. By providing transitional youth a place to live independently among their peers, while receiving the life-skills & support necessary to become successful, contributing members of society, GR24 has become a model program for Arkansas’s Transitional Youth Services. The next step in providing creative solutions for youth in foster care ages 18 & older consists of 3 programs:
1). Alumni Campus Mentor program- this program would encourage graduating GR24 residents to continue to live on campus (at a discounted rent rate) & assume the role of advocate & support for current members, helping them connect with campus life while modeling the value system of the program.
2). “State of GR24” newsletters- the monthly newsletter would update TYS Coordinators & DHS caseworkers on vacancies at GR24, the progress of the program & current GR24 residents, & act as a recruiting tool for potential youth statewide.
3). Studying the feasibility of creating an intermediate step between a youth living in a foster care home or shelter & transitioning into independent living. This intermediate step (“gap” housing) might consist of small group housing for young adults turning 18 who want to be independent but don’t yet have the skills to live at GR24 in their own apartment.
On August 1, 2022 the former Children’s Shelter will undergo a remodel to begin housing Level 2 residents who are aging out of foster care. This is the “gap” housing option that was considered during the feasibility study and the intermediate step between living in a group home and single bedroom apartment.
A Resident Advisor (RA) will live in an apartment within the dorm [gap house] and be on call to serve the residents. A life-coach will also be hired to assist our young adults living in the freshman dorm. This is an intermediate program that will guide the residents towards full independent living in our apartment building adjacent to the dorm.
After receiving Level 2 applicants for 6 years now, we are excited to be able to serve additional young adults who are in crisis that are in need of a safe and stable environment. We will meet each resident with their own individualized plan so that they can achieve their personal goals.
Level 1 SIL – The GetREAL apartment building:
Based on a number of factors, Level 1, is the individual’s classification which means they have been determined to possess the skills and knowledge to live fully independent.
Level 2 SIL – Dormitory Living:
Individuals that need more support, time, and guidance to learn and perform basic life-skills that they have not been able to learn due to the type of placement or childhood trauma they have experienced during adolescence.