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Park Place: Transitional living program fills crucial service gap

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ANGELO prides himself in preparing fine cuisine for Park Place Board Meetings.  He is known for his meatballs.

“I love a clean kitchen,” he says with pride. He wouldn’t disclose all of his secret recipe, but he did tell that he uses mustard, barbeque sauce, jelly, and stuffs the meatballs with beef cubes.  

Angelo is a resident at the new Park Place Transitional Living Program, which is an 18-month residential program that prepares homeless, runaway, and at-risk males ages 16-21 for independence and self-sufficiency.

Park Place Outreach has been providing a safe, secure, and loving temporary home for children who are homeless, runaway, or victims of abuse in Savannah since 1984.

Earlier this year, they added a new transitional living program that provides housing, case management services, life skills, personal and community connections and other individualized services.

Angelo.
  • Angelo.

“Adding this program to our array of services fills a significant service gap by providing housing, long-term stabilization and support services to runaway and homeless young men who cannot immediately be reunited with their families and need support to achieve independence,” says Executive Director Julie Wade.

“All eligible candidates must complete an application, interview, and must be committed to comply with the rules of the program and to seek growth and independence in education, employment, life skills, and overall well being,” says Wade.  “Residents must follow all rules, and must either work or be continuing their education, or a combination of both.”

Angelo works full time and goes to school.  An early morning riser, after exercising in Forsyth Park, he rides the bus to work at Dairy Queen, then to Savannah Tech where he is pursuing a double major in the culinary and film departments. 

“I am expanding my horizons. I see myself making it big in the photography world,” he says.

He also wants to open a restaurant and work with the youth in our community, which are great aspirations for a man at the tender age of 18.  

Angelo said that the credit counseling that he received in the program has been the most beneficial.

“I really had no idea how to balance my credit or what credit was — a banker came in and talked with us about balance, savings, and how not to be in the negative.  I’ve learned not to spend too much and to resist purchasing things I don’t need, because it’s hard,” he says.

“You have to start somewhere to get to wherever you want to go,” advises Angelo. And at Park Place, he is building a solid foundation for success.

Julie Wade, who is also a SCCPSS Board Member, says, “One of the most compelling numbers to me is that if you do not have a high school degree or GED, you are nearly 350% more likely to experience homelessness.  That’s a huge number! So getting kids across the graduation stage is a key factor to preventing homelessness. Homeless youth have lower academic outcomes than the average child, so we have to work twice as hard to get that youth through high school to prevent intergenerational homelessness.”

Isaiah.
  • Isaiah.

Isaiah, a resident at Park Place says, “I really liked to fight, I used to fight a lot at Beach High School, but then I realized that I really don’t need to be going through all of this anymore, I only need to fight to defend myself.” 

That is when he developed his passion for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). 

After graduating from high school, Isaiah found himself homeless, “my mother kicked me out because I got into a fight with my stepdad.”  

He was living at a homeless camp located at Louisville Road and Pritchard Street, which is one of Savannah’s 26 homeless encampments.  

Isaiah says that one day while looking for food, Kenneth Brown, a homeless advocate and Park Place Street Outreach Program Manager, approached him and told him about Park Place. 

“I’m here now, and I’m grateful,” says Isaiah, and boasts, “I like to keep a clean room. Park Place helped me to get my stuff together, gave me a place to stay, and helped me to find a job.”

Isaiah continues practicing MMA, and while he admits that Cheri Dean, Transitional Living Program Director doesn’t like it, he says his career goal is to be a boxer, but for now he is happy working as a server at Garibaldi downtown.

“I like to meet new people. I’m a very social person, I like to talk and get to know you. I ask them, ‘’How are you doing?” he says.

“Many of the young men we encounter have been abandoned, betrayed, misunderstood or abused by those they trust most,” Cheri Dean says.  “Gaining their confidence requires a deep understanding of those we serve and their adverse life experiences.”

Five young men are able to participate in the program at any one time.  They live in a furnished four-bedroom home within a short walk of both the home and public transportation.  Staff provide on-site supervision, and each young man receives an individualized service plan that identifies his specific needs, strengths and interests.  

“I like it here” says Isaiah, “it’s worth living for, I really do appreciate the help because I have been through tough times. I really hope that they can help me to get my life together, that is what I am really here for, to help me get my stuff together.”  

Kenneth.
  • Kenneth.

After high school, Kenneth was floating between Old Savannah City Mission and Union Mission when his boss at Bitty and Beau’s Coffee told him about Park Place.

In school, Kenneth’s favorite subjects were reading and English, and one day he hopes to write a novel about his homelessness story, but right now, the 19 year-old says that he is happy to “have a designated home to go to.”

Residents are taught meal planning skills; how to make a shopping list and cook healthy foods.  Kenneth’s favorite is baked macaroni and cheese, he sprinkles it with parmesan cheese on top to make it extra cheesy.

Each Tuesday, it is mandatory for the residents to participate in book club and house meetings, which include training in life skills and credit counseling.

Kenneth says he has learned “not go over budget” and to “only buy necessities and what’s useful”, but he admits to saving a little extra to purchase Toy Story items.  

“I have been a fan of Toy Story since I was 5 years old, because it teaches about friendship, and all of the characters in the movie resemble real life qualities.”

Kenneth’s goals are to “own my own apartment and manage Bitty and Beau’s. This is a really good program because most places in Savannah aren’t long term, and hopefully it will inspire other people to open things similar to this in case Park Place isn’t for them but they still need temporary housing and assistance,” he says.

Wade concludes:

“Our goal is to ensure each young man will be able to achieve a personal level of well being, positive and permanent connections, educational advancement and gainful employment. We further expect the transitional living program to reduce costs to the community through savings in social service programs, incarceration and mental health treatment.” 

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