The Star-Herald

Northern Lighthouse launches case management program for homeless youth

AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine — Northern Lighthouse, LLC, a provider of mental and behavioral health services in Aroostook County, hopes to expand its direct outreach to local youth who are experiencing homelessness through a new case management program.

Recently, Northern Lighthouse received a $20,000 grant from Portland-based John T. Gorman Foundation to support the creation and sustainment of the new program. The grant will support the organization’s current children’s case managers as they connect with youth through schools, after-school groups and other community agencies and organizations and work to expand overall community awareness of youth homelessness.

Northern Lighthouse has offices in Presque Isle, Mars Hill, Caribou, Houlton and Waterville and also provides services such as outpatient therapy for children and adults, case management, counseling and outpatient programs for people struggling with substance use disorder.

Blake Hatt, director of operations at Northern Lighthouse, said that the concept for the Case Management Services Program for Homeless Youth began after he attended a community needs meeting at Aroostook County Action Program several years ago.

Community leaders from businesses, nonprofits, healthcare and behavioral health agencies came together to discuss and identify the most prevalent social issues that create challenges for much of Aroostook’s population.

Hatt met many community leaders there who were either working with homeless youth or knew of local families or teachers who were giving youth a place to stay or connecting them with resources to deal with unsafe family situations.

Over time, Hatt and his team at Northern Lighthouse came to realize that a variety of factors, including substance use and family instability, were resulting in some youth becoming homeless, couch surfing at the homes of different friends or being taken in by the families of their friends after choosing to leave an unsafe home.

“A lot of times these cases [of homeless youth] go unnoticed because people step up and help youth without saying so publicly,” Hatt said. “We want to reach out to those people and other community agencies to create more awareness of this issue and provide the services to youth.”

Through the case management program, Northern Lighthouse will aim to connect homeless youth and their families with mental health services, safe housing options, substance use treatment, employment services and other services that could potentially help families reunite. All services will be free to youth and their families.

As part of the program and its grant funding, Northern Lighthouse hopes to launch various community conversations about youth homelessness and potentially seek out more statistical data on how many youth experience homelessness in Aroostook County and the challenges they are facing.

“The community conversation is a big part of this,” Hatt said. “The more we can reach out to other people and bring about awareness, the more opportunities we’ll have to be part of the solution.”

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