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Community Residence Provides New Beginnings for Youth

From residences and recovery programs serving adults with mental health diagnoses to crisis services including the Community Soup Kitchen and Emergency Housing Shelter, Community Missions prides itself in providing services to marginalized populations in the Niagara region. However, what many people may not realize is CMI's focus on Youth Services. Since 1965, CMI has acceptedthechallenge and commitment of providing services to needy, troubled, and emotionally disturbed youth under the age of 21. In 1996, Residential Environments Allowing Children Hope (REACH) was officially adopted as the division's title and, today, the division primarily serves youth and families in the juvenile justice and youth mental health systems.

Among REACH's programs is a Youth Community Residence named Aurora House, also created in 1996. Located in Lockport, NY, Aurora House is a co-ed, 24-hour supervised facility serving youth ages 12-17 from 19 counties in New York. Youth in the program have mental health diagnoses and Severely Emotionally Disturbed classification and stay for an average of six-nine months. It is Aurora House's goal that youth return home to a parent or guardian, or to an independent living arrangement, after discharge. To reach this goal, up to eight youth at a time are provided with services focusing on education, therapy, daily and independent living skill instruction, medical management, and self-awareness of disabilities.

Youth attend local schools and receive educational support, including tutoring by New York State certified teachers. They are encouraged to participate in extracurricular or recreational activities in and out of school, as well as volunteer or paid work based on their own interests and skills. One such example is Equi Star Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc., a ranch providing horse riding for individuals with disabilities, where many have enjoyed volunteering. Youth participate in activities such as crafts, gardening, or helping to prepare meals and will often visit libraries, museums, sporting events, and stores with staff or their own families. Many youth take advantage of the large yard and basketball court for outdoor fun and video game consoles and computers are available which they can use to play age-appropriate games.

Along with many other agencies, Aurora House has modified its core values in recent years to improve its approaches toward youth. Adopting a youth-guided model, for example, has allowed youth to have decision-making roles in policies, procedures, and their own lives. Youth have input in everything from aspects of their own care, to how their own spaces are decorated, to what they will have for dinner. In addition, adopting a family-driven model has put a focus upon keeping families engaged with their children, and taking a strength-based approach ensures that Aurora House recognizes the positive qualities and talents that each youth possesses. These and other approaches help to fulfill the goal of creating positive changes within the youth and of ensuring long-term success after departing from Aurora House.

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By The Numbers...

In 2016, Community Missions provided:

11,104 nights of shelter

89,366 meals

6,744 individuals with clothing

2,295 care days in Youth Services

46,888 care days in Recovery Services

73,994 care days in Housing Services

182 opportunities for Faith Development


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