Hope, Health Care, Sloppy Joes

Anthony House helps homeless youths find homes

By Will Kirschner
Contributing Editor

Six teenagers sit in the living room of a home chatting, browsing Facebook and eating sloppy Joes. What breaks the normality is when Tom Curran, who manages Anthony House, a drop-in center for homeless teens and young adults, enters the room and tells the teens that the clinic upstairs will offer be free HIV tests.

Kevin Finn of the Health Resource Center of Cincinnati founded Anthony House seven years ago. It serves as a place for homeless young people, up to the age of 24, to hang out, have their medical needs taken care of and get a warm meal. Six years ago it came under the auspices of Lighthouse Youth Services.

Anthony House serves young people who are “couch-surfing,” traveling between the homes of friends and sleeping indoors when they can, sometimes squatting in abandoned houses. These young adults often go uncounted in surveys of homeless people.

Among the services provided by Anthony house is providing homeless certificates. These cards, which certify that a person has spent the night at an emergency shelter, allows the holder to apply for transitional and permanent housing.

Anthony House helps create a support system for these young adults.

“They do not know how to get up with an alarm everyday necessarily,” Curran says. “They do not know how to do their own laundry a lot of times. We have to go over those life skills. They do not know how to make a budget or plan for a savings account.”

Anthony House uses a variety of methods to help homeless young people. One is harm-reduction services. These include bleach kits and condoms. Bleach kits allow users of intravenous drugs, who might not have the resources to get their own needles, to clean a needle and share it.

“We understand that people are making mistakes and people are choosing to continue their use and continue to have sex for that matter,” Curran says. “The idea behind that is in the future they will come to us to get these kits, and then when they are ready to move on with their lives and do something different, they will know who to come to.”

Anthony House also provides laundry facilities and access to the Internet. Though its clients are homeless, the Internet plays a large part in their lives. By giving them a tool to network with friends and family, it allows them to coordinate with whatever support system they might still have in place. It also allows them to search online for job openings.

Anthony House uses the Internet to attract homeless young people and inform them of what is going on at the house or where their outreach vans will be. The agency’s Web site includes the events that are going on that day.

Anthony (a pseudonym), now too old for the services provided by Anthony House, became homeless as the result of a bad decision and a series of unfortunate events. He decided to allow some people he describes as “crack heads” to stay in his place for 30 days. They took advantage of his hospitality and used his house for questionable activities, he says. At the end of the month, he put their belongings out onto the street, except for their valuable electronics. When Anthony returned home, his guests had called the police, and he was charged with robbery, he says. He was also robbed of the $500 needed for rent, he says.

Anthony’s experience points to the fact that homelessness can affect anyone, even a college graduate. He is a graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in psychology and a minor in journalism. His experiences led him to advocate for homeless youths. He is now the president of the Cincinnati chapter of the Youth Empowerment Program and credits Anthony House with helping him get back on his feet. The Youth Empowerment Program, or YEP, is a statewide council of homeless youths ages 12 to 21 that advocates for all children.

Curran says the biggest difference between homeless young people and older homeless adults is their different perspectives.

“They have a lot of hope, which is a lot of time different from the homeless adult population,” he says. “They still have a lot of friends and acquaintances. A lot of that is the imperviousness of youth.”