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AmeriCorps Project

Three Youth.

The Wisconsin Association for Runaway Services, formed in 1979, is a coalition of community based, voluntary, non-profit agencies. The Association's members provide preventive and crisis counseling, temporary shelter, and referral services to youth in crisis. Family mediation is also provided to bring about reconciliation with parents, if possible. Program services are available on a walk-in basis, as well as through 24-hour crisis lines. The goals of the member agencies are to strengthen families, prevent family dissolution, promote self-sufficiency, and ensure permanent, stable homes for youth. In many instances, youth leave home due to family conflict, typically caused by lack of communication. Other times they are forced out of their homes by parents or leave to escape sexual or physical abuse. Returning a youth to this environment without an attempt at resolution can result in more runaway episodes, continuing family conflict, or even more tragic consequences.

Runaway programs have seen major increases in homeless youth. These youth, who live "on the street", are in very high risk situations, with few resources and virtually no support system. As a response to this phenomenon, the Wisconsin Association for Runaway Services, in collaboration with the Wisconsin Board for National and Community Service, provides a team of AmeriCorps members to provide street outreach services and mobile response teams for referrals from police departments, schools, and other youth serving agencies. The AmeriCorps members are available to youth who are homeless, runaways, or in crisis and are therefore "on the street". Members frequent areas in the community where youth congregate, such as parks, malls, convenience stores, etc. Youth are provided with hygiene packets, food vouchers, transportation vouchers, clothes, educational materials, and, most importantly, referral services to provide them with safe alternatives to the street. The members also are available to police and school personnel, by responding directly to referrals. Twenty-five AmeriCorps members are providing these outreach services in 36 counties, ensuring runaway, homeless, and youth in crisis have a strong support system and alternatives to the street.


The average runaway program receives less than $55,000 in federal and state funds to serve runaway and homeless youth. On the average, there are 1116 juveniles reported missing per program service area. Due to budget shortages, most runaway programs have limited staff, who are unable to leave the offices where they are providing 24 hour coverage and person to person intervention services. Since the Wisconsin Children's code prevents the entry of most runaways into the court system, the 10,000 runaways annually, who are picked up by police in Wisconsin, are being returned to parents without help for the problem that lead to the runaway crisis. Police personnel can release a youth to a runaway program, but rarely do so because of the time involved with transportation. The offer of immediate access to services by trained, mobile, AmeriCorps members, who meet with runaways and wait to meet with parents at police stations greatly increase the number of police referrals. The same, immediate, on-site response is offered to school counselors and social workers. Resistant youth who have weathered multiple runs and are conditioned to life on the street or youth who are homeless, are often not aware of resources available to them. AmeriCorps members are known to these youth through extensive street outreach. Their contacts are geared toward establishing trust and being available for help in crises, such as sickness, personal conflicts, sexual exploitation, and homelessness.


  1. Community Service

    • Increase the number of hotline, police, and school referred runaways who receive counseling, shelter, and other services.

    • Provision of street outreach services, ensuring hard to reach youth are offered safe alternatives to living on the street.

  2. Strengthen Communities

    • Ensure community awareness of runaways/services

    • Strengthen relationships among youth serving organizations

    • Increase the number of teen and adult volunteers serving runaway and homeless youth programs

  3. Personal Growth of AmeriCorps Members

    • Increase the knowledge and skills of AmeriCorps members serving runaway and homeless youth and their families

    • Increase the AmeriCorps members' community contacts and knowledge of area resources

    • Increase the AmeriCorps members' activities geared towards personal and career development


    • Increased number of street youth who have a trusted adult to turn to in a crisis

    • 95% of runaways seen by the runaway program will return home or safe alternative

    • Incidences of repeated running will be reduced to 15% among runaways seen by programs(compared to 50% national average)

    • Increase in police departments with policies and agreements to release runaways to runaway programs

    • Increase in school personnel with an effective means of working with runaways

    • Increase in communities whose citizens are knowledgeable and service minded regarding runaway, homeless, and street youth

    • Coordination of community agencies with focus on the special needs of street youth

    • AmeriCorps members who have expertise in rapid referral response and community referral resources


    For information about AmeriCorps programs across Wisconsin, please visit the Wisconsin National and Community Service Board's website at www.servewisconsin.org and AmeriCorps' website at www.americorps.org

    Three Youth.

Program Locations

  1. Appleton: Katie VanGroll
    Boys and Girls Clubs of the Fox Valley, Inc.
    160 South Badger Ave
    Appleton, WI 54914-5228
    Office: (920) 731-0555
    Hotline: (920) 731-0557
    Fax: (920) 968-2716

  2. Green Bay: Katie Gazella
    Family Services of NE WI
    300 Crooks Street / POB 22308
    Green Bay, WI 54305-2308
    Office: (920) 436-4360 x 1287
    Hotline: (920) 436-8888
    Fax: (920) 436-4376
    kgazella@familyservicesnew.org (Brown)

  3. Janesville: Project 16:49
    Tammy DeGarmo, Executive Director
    740 N. Randall Avenue
    Janesville, WI 53545
    (608) 314-5501

  4. Madison: Casey Behrend
    Youth Services of Southern Wisconsin, Inc (Briarpatch)
    1955 Atwood Avenue
    Madison, WI 53704
    Office: (608) 245-2550
    Hotline: (608) 251-1126 / (800) 798-1126
    Fax: (608) 245-2551
    (Dane, Dodge, Jefferson)

  5. Milwaukee: Ben Hastil
    Walkers Point Youth &Family Ctr
    2030 W National Ave
    Milwaukee, WI 53204
    Office: (414) 672-5300
    Hotline: (414) 647-8200
    Fax: (414) 672-5340

  1. Milwaukee: Katie Hamm
    Pathfinders Youth Shelter
    1614 East Kane Place
    Milwaukee, WI 53202
    Office: (414) 271-1560
    Hotline: (866) 212-7233
    Fax: (414) 271-1831

  2. Racine: Pamala Handrow and Jeanette Brown
    SAFE Haven Youth Shelter
    1030 Washington Avenue
    Racine, WI 53403-1762
    Office: (262) 637-9559
    Hotline: (262) 632-0424
    Fax: (262) 632-8758
    (Racine, Walworth)

  3. Rhinelander: Angela Dexter
    KIN, Inc.
    62 N. Brown Street
    PO Box 895
    Rhinelander, WI 54501
    Office/Fax: (715) 365-7003
    Hotline: (715) 927-TEEN
    (Forest, Oneida, Vilas)

  4. Sheboygan: Emily Kunde
    706 North 9th Street
    Sheboygan, WI 53081
    Office: (920) 458-7100
    Hotline: 1-855-LSS-RAYS
    Fax: (920) 458-5670
    (Calumet, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Sheboygan)

  5. Superior: Tanya Nelson
    Project Reach Out
    1500 N. 34th Street, Suite 200
    Superior, WI 54880
    Office: (715) 395-6429
    Hotline: 1-855-LSS-RAYS
    Fax: (715) 392-6055
    (Burnett, Douglas, Sawyer, Washburn, Ashland, Bayfield, Iron, Price)

  6. West Bend, Port Washington: Emily Greene
    Youth & Family Project
    630 Elm Street
    West Bend, WI 53095
    Office: (262) 338-1661
    Hotline: (800) 924-3555
    Fax: (262) 338-7761
    (Washington, Ozaukee)

Reflection by AmeriCorps Members


by: Angela Endejan

Mom and I are fighting again,
Where did I go wrong?
She's starting her next bottle of gin,
Where did I go wrong?
I just found out I am pregnant,
Where did I go wrong?
My bags are on the sidewalk,
Where did I go wrong?

A car, a park bench, a cardboard box,
Where will I sleep tonight?
I heard we are expecting snow,
Where will I sleep tonight?
I don't know how long this couch can be my bed,
Where will I sleep tonight?
My bags are all tattered and torn,
Where will I sleep tonight?

I heard that this place can help me,
Where do I begin?
They have given me a place to stay,
Where do I begin?
I need to finish my GED and get a job
Where do I begin?
My bags have a place to call home
Where do I begin?

I sign my lease next week,
Where has the time gone?
My baby gets bigger every day,
Where has the time gone?
I graduated and have a full-time job,
Where has the time gone?
My bags are no longer needed,
Where has the time gone?

About two years ago, all I wanted to know,
Where did I go wrong?
Every night I worried,
Where will I sleep tonight?
I started a new adventure wondering,
Where do I begin?
And now I sit here writing this asking,
Where has the time gone?

Without all these questions,
I could have never found the answers.

Thank you.


The author is a full-time AmeriCorps member at the Youth and Family Project in West Bend, WI who works with the Transitional Housing and Street Outreach programs. She hopes to receive both her professional counseling and alcohol and drug counseling licenses and continue to work with youth in Wisconsin.


An Outreach Tanka

by: Jenna Van Der Sande

walking all the streets
searching, looking to reach out
youth who need our help
helping our community
brings families together

A Sonnet: The Young One

by: Jenna Van Der Sande

Young one,
Insightful on the inside
Tough exterior to some
And to me she can confide

Dances like no one cares
And speaks from her heart
On paper does she dare
Declare what sets her apart

Such knowing views
For such a young girl
Wonder who or what is her muse
And what else from her can unfurl

What a wonderful youth to know
Cannot wait to see what path she'll follow


My name is Jenna Van Der Sande and I'm an Americorp for Project Youth, part of Lutheran Social Services. My area of service is in Sheboygan County and I am a first year Americorps. I really enjoy working the youth and families in my area, this experience has opened my eyes and I appreciate the opportunity to serve my community. My pieces are about what our goal as an outreach team and about a youth that we service through our drop-in program that I admire.

Easier Than Not

By Erin Roemer

It's easier than not
to forget what we do
is of vast importance
to more than a few

The youth we serve
the steps we take
the compassion we give
did enough progress we make

At the end of a hard day
we question our work
Did I make a difference?
Did I erase any hurt?

Sometimes a smile
A story she confides
An inquisitive "Where were you?"
She won't let it slide

Reminds me I'm needed
On me she depends
for a listening ear, a role model
a mentor or friend

I serve to amend
one life at a time
so she may have one
more like yours and mine

It's easier than not
to stand in the distance
but service is our calling
our duty to make a difference


Author Biography: Erin Roemer is an MSW Graduate Student who resides in Brookfield, WI. Under the direction of the Wisconsin Association for Homeless and Runaway Services, she serves as a Street Outreach Program worker at the Youth and Family Project, Inc. in West Bend.


AmeriCorps Network of programs (AmeriCorps State and National) supports a wide range of local service programs that engage thousands of Americans in intensive community service each year.

WAHRS • Patricia Balke • pbalke.wahrs@gmail.com • 608-241-2649

WAHRS • Patricia Balke