Alternative House-- the Abused and Homeless Children's Refuge
Alternative House – the Abused and Homeless
Children’s Refuge's mission is to transform
the lives of children and youth helping them
stay safe, make positive decisions, achieve
educational success, and overcome personal
crises. We offer children, youth and families
hope for brighter futures by providing
counseling, shelter, neighborhood support and
For more than 40 years Alternative House has
provided programs and services to meet that
goal. We began as a small shelter to help
runaway and homeless youth and have grown to a
multi-faceted family services agency.
Our programs include:
The Emergency Shelter for Teenagers serves
approximately 200 homeless, runaway and abused
youth each year. Young people 13 to 17
years-old may stay at the shelter for three
weeks. Services are available 24-house a day,
365 days a year, at no cost to teens or their
families. In addition to providing a safe
haven, food and clothing to young people,
teens receive intense individual counseling,
group counseling and crisis stabilization.
Whenever possible family counseling is also
provided. Of young people who come to us from
an intact home, approximately 90% return home
with supportive after-care counseling
Our AYM – Assisting Young Mothers program for
pregnant and parenting girls who are homeless
was full the day it opened and has a large
waiting list. This 18 to 24 month residential
program for young women 16 to 24 years old and
their babies helps the young women increase
their parenting skills, continue their
education, receive employment training and
save towards the day they will leave the
program and establish a home for themselves
and their child. Our goal is to help these
young women achieve their own goals – of
becoming a more nurturing parent and of having
the skills needed to become a contributing
member of the community. Eight young women and
their children participate in the AYM program
at any one time.
Our newest program is the Homeless Youth
Initiative helps young people who are
homeless, without the support of a parent or
guardian and who are still in high school.
Last year at the end of the school year there
were 108 young people in this precarious
position. Thanks to Federal Stimulus funding,
this year we are able to do something to help
them. In partnership with Fairfax County
Public Schools, Alternative House is leading a
three-pronged program to provide housing and
other supports. We are recruiting Host Homes
(similar to hosting a foreign exchange
student), providing rent vouchers and have a
small transitional living program that can
work with four young women. Program
participants are 16 to 21 years old and must
be completing high school.
For 16 years our Community Youth Outreach
Programs have served high-risk and culturally
diverse youth in their neighborhoods.
Neighborhood-based counselors worked with more
than 1,000 young people last year. Our mobile
outreach van averages 300 contacts with youth
each month providing counseling, referrals and
survival supplies in an effort to keep youth
in school and away from gang activity.
The Culmore Teen Center served more than 250
youth this past year. The drop-in center
provides a safe place away from gang
recruitment in one of the most heavily gang-
infested areas in Fairfax. Counselors at the
center along with community volunteers,
provide homework help, tutoring, and
recreation and field trips, counseling and
community service projects. The center also
provides meals for those who need it. Similar
outreach services are provided at the
Franconia Family Resource Center for young
people who live in the Springfield area of
Our newest outreach effort is the Safe Youth
Project, an after-school program for 4th, 5th
and 6th graders. Our first Safe Youth Project
in Culmore was so successful that we were able
to open a second program in Annandale. The
program provides homework help, tutoring,
community service opportunities, computer
skills, and recreational opportunities. It
was opened after police asked Alternative
House if we could work with younger youth.
Local gangs have started recruiting children
as young as 10. Waiting to provide prevention
services beginning in middle school could be
too late. The Safe Youth Project has exceeded
its enrollment projection of 30 youth at each
location and provides neighborhood-based
services four days a week.
Alternative House also offers a national toll-
free hotline – 1-800-SAY-TEEN for anyone in
need of assistance. Affiliated with the
National Runaway Switchboard, the hotline
receives an average of 150 calls per month.
Free walk-in counseling is also provided for
young people in crisis at our Emergency
Shelter for Teenagers.
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