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Charlie Elder House

posted Jul 10, 2014, 8:46 AM by Ezra Lockhart
During the summer, I had the privilege of working at the Charlie Elder House for approximately six weeks. The program, operating under Catholic Social Services, provides severely emotionally disturbed teenage boys who are homeless or near homelessness a stable, secure, and therapeutic living environment. This transitional group home provides up to five young men between the ages of 12 to 19 a structured setting where they are able to learn to live independently, succeed academically, and contribute to their community. The Charlie Elder House in concert with Alaska Children's Services also provides these teens counseling and case management.

I was able to quickly build rapport and define clear professional boundaries. I routinely spent all day Sunday with these young men. And came in during the weekday mornings to aid each in preparing for the day ahead of them. As part of each resident's goal for independent living I assured that they completed their household responsibilities before venturing out into the community.

What I take away most from this experience is the importance of structure in the home, support systems, and direction for youth in general. I was able to observe thriving young men who prior to entry into this program were aimlessly navigating life with frequent forays with juvenile detention and substance abuse. They although having different personal stories shared feelings of purposelessness and thoughts that no one cared for their welfare. It was apparent on a fundamental level that they mirrored and internalized the environment they were exposed to. If we are immersed in chaos we assume the mantle of chaos and end up either seeking chaotic situations or introducing chaos into our daily activities. However, with clear expectations set, enforced accountability through the implementation of support systems both in- and outside the home, and interactions with strong role models (e.g., resident coaching parent and shift monitor) these teens can begin to organize their lives; build positive, health routines necessary for all around success; and reshape their internalized environments.