It's 8 pm on a Wednesday. You're wrapping up your day working with the drop in center, picking up after the days programming and activities, tidying the tables and encouraging the youth to layer up because it's December in Wisconsin, and it's time to go.
Thankfully, there was enough food to ensure everyone was able to eat today, and that's a huge win.
Riley is putting on a donated coat and approaching you. If you're honest with yourself you feel a mix of saddness and frustration. Riley is crashing on a buddies couch. Home isn't safe since being outed by a cousin, the threats from Mom are serious and scary.
It's a 20 minute car ride to a safe place to sleep, through some particularly rough neighborhoods, but things are strained there so Riley walks to the drop in center every day to let the hosts have their space, and to take advantage of the drop in's computers, get some food, and socialize.
It's 10 degrees now and that 20 minute drive is a two hour walk.
Riley's coming to ask you for a bus ticket, and you're going to have to say no. The share of tickets for Riley has already been exhausted, and though you were able to make a few exceptions, you really don't have the resources to give an additional bus ticket. The only reason the question is being asked is because there's hope we've received another donation.
It's incredibly frustrating that less than two dollar bus fair is preventing you from helping ensure someone's safety from the elements and a rough neighborhood, but Riley is only one of hundereds of youth you see with similar rock and a hard place scenarios. The resources have been spread as fairly and evenly as possible, with some contingencies planned for, but even those have been exhausted, too.
You occasionally half-joke with your team about finding a bus ticket fairy, and a food fairy, and a staff FAIRY! HOW GREAT WOULD A STAFF FAIRY BE?! *Poof! Additional trained, paid staff members!* You never seem to have all the resources you need to help provide or find access to basic needs for the youth you work with. It's hard having to consistently pick the least-harm option.
And this struggle of ours is -nothing- compared to Riley's. You know the least-harm option in this moment is to walk two hours in below freezing weather to have a safe place to sleep. And this isn't anywhere near the hardest least-harm option Riley will make today.
I donate because I've been that drop in worker.
I donate because I can make up this story about Riley and know that despite me not knowing this particular fictional character, I do know hundreds of real names of real youth in Milwaukee who have similar or worse rock and a hard place scenarios.
I donate because I know every cent I send to Pathfinders is used for the good of the youth they serve. It's how I can help improve the least-harm options for a group of young people I am passionate about, with an organization I've worked for that can support these young people better than any other organization in Milwaukee.
Will you donate with me and help the Rileys stay warmer and safer this winter?
PATHFINDERS MILWAUKEE INC wrote -
Join us this holiday season and help us reach our year end campaign goal! Due to a few very generous donations, we are excited to announce that every contribution made up to our $50,000 goal will be matched dollar for dollar!
The need for your continued generous support has never been greater:
- Nearly 500 youth are homeless and on the streets on any given night in Milwaukee, yet our supportive housing program waitlist is three times greater than our current capacity.
- Milwaukee leads the country in alarmingly high rates of teen pregnancy, infant mortality, and youth unemployment.
- Human trafficking has reached levels that make Milwaukee a national hub for the exploitation of youth.
And the results of your investment have never been more inspiring:
- Our work is recognized nationally by HUD as a model program for its effective use of rapid re-housing for ending youth homelessness.
- Our Housing First approach is embraced by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and promoted across the State as an effective youth-centered and trauma-informed strategy.
- Our evidenced-based interventions have reduced infant mortality to 0% for the young parents served in our Rosalie Center home visiting program.
Every one of our youth deserves a caring adult in their lives. Thank you for being that caring person. Thank you for being the change we need to see in the world. And through your generous donation, thank you for helping support Pathfinders as we continue our mission of Empowering Youth and Changing Lives!