Looking Glass CEO Craig Opperman and Board Chair, Dan LaCoste, penned this guest editorial which was submitted to and published in The Register-Guard on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. Read the Op-Ed on registerguard.com here.
Amidst all the articles, guest views, letters and an editorial about the proposed St. Vincent de Paul youth house in Bethel, most readers likely did not notice the small paragraph near the bottom of Page 5, Section D of the June 24 Register-Guard. It noted that Looking Glass Community Services received the Model Program Award from the National Safe Place Network.
The Safe Place Network, headquartered in Kentucky, certifies a “Safe Place” at sites across the United States. These sites provide safe shelter and supportive services to runaway, homeless and vulnerable youth. Looking Glass is currently the only designated Safe Place in Oregon. The award was for creative and innovative service delivery and demonstrated effectiveness.
Looking Glass is also the only nationally accredited Runaway and Homeless Youth program in Oregon. That means our programs meet or exceed national standards of care as independently and rigorously verified by the Council on Accreditation in New York. It requires that we engage in continuous quality improvement of our agency.
Looking Glass whole-heartedly supports St. Vincent de Paul’s efforts to establish youth programs to combat youth homelessness. However, the articles, and especially the editorial on June 18, implied that St. Vinnie’s program was a new approach and “unlike anything that exists in Oregon, and maybe beyond.” That is strange to say, especially since the Register-Guard covered some of Looking Glass’ programs in its excellent series on homelessness last year.
Looking Glass is getting accolades in Kentucky, New York, throughout the national RHY networks, as well as recognition for our collective impact work across Oregon and with California and Washington providers in “West Coast Convenings” on RHY services. It would be a disservice to our staff, board and donors — and especially the youth who need our service — if we did not increase local awareness of the programs we have here.
Our programs serve more than 8,000 youth each year in counseling, school/education services, residential treatment and RHY supports. We have access 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year to services through our hotline and crisis response teams.
As you go to sleep this evening, as many as 91 youth may be sleeping in Looking Glass programs throughout our community. Specific to Runaway and Homeless Youth services, in Looking Glass facilities we have 12 beds of temporary shelter where young people can stay 20 days, along with six Looking Glass apartments where they can stay for two years. We additionally have 24 community housing placements for longer term transitional living programs.
We sheltered more than 180 homeless youth last year. We provided day shelter, basic needs, counseling, drug treatment, medical care and school or educational services to over 700 RHY clients. Our primary goal is to end youth homelessness in our community and support these young people in achieving safe, permanent living situations. Our Station 7 Shelter Program for youth under age 18 sees more than 65 percent of those clients successfully return to their families. We need more funding and resources to expand these achievements.
Looking Glass has established a culturally sensitive, trauma informed, comprehensive system of care for runaway, homeless and all vulnerable youth. Our dedicated staff works tirelessly to support those in need in times of crisis. We have cared for runaway and homeless youth in Lane County since 1970. We are proud of those roots.
We are excited to share all the quantitative and qualitative growth we have experienced. Looking Glass is especially honored to provide, along with St. Vincent de Paul and other vital organizations, services that improve the health and well-being of all members of our community.
Craig Opperman is president and CEO of Looking Glass Community Services. Dan LaCoste is chair of the Looking Glass board of directors. They submitted this essay on the board’s behalf.