As we continue our journey around Fayette County, let’s get to know more about Arbor Youth Services!
Founded in 1976, Arbor Youth Services seeks to “end youth homelessness by providing a safe and supportive environment to youth who have suffered abuse, abandonment, or are at risk of victimization.” They strive for a world where every child and youth has a stable home. Each year, Arbor serves approximately 200 minors through their emergency shelter. They also serve about 100 individuals ages 18 to 24 through their outreach center, where they help individuals transition into housing.
Arbor wants to not only provide a safe space for kids to come during a crisis, but also an accepting place. The staff understands that the kids coming in are in a moment of crisis, and when kids come in and are angry, the staff encourages them to feel what they’re feeling because they know it’s coming from a place of trauma and self-preservation. Lori Clemons, Executive Director of Arbor Youth, says, “They may not accept our love but we want them to know we love them.”
Arbor receives funding from United Way of the Bluegrass through grants. According to Clemons: “UWBG grants are especially impactful, because they help us cover operational expenses in addition to program costs. Some other grants only pay for specific things, but it’s also important for us to be able to pay staff and be able to pay for heat, etc.”
Of those youth experiencing homelessness, 41-43% identify as LGBTQ, and 74% of youth homelessness is due to family rejection. A few years ago, a 12-year-old boy came to Arbor Youth Services. He had run away from home and was living on the street for a few days before the cops found him and brought him to Arbor. He was scared to go home because of the abuse and neglect he was suffering there. He told the staff that he was gay and that his father told him he was trash every day. Since there’s no legal system in place to protect kids from emotional abuse, the staff knew that he would eventually have to return home. While the boy was staying with them, everyone spent time telling him that he was worthy of love. “It was huge for us to be able to provide that safe place for him, where we accept him and were the first ones to tell this kid he’s loved,” said Lori Clemons.
This story is just an example of how each person at Arbor Youth Services is impacting youth experiencing homelessness and serving their community. Thank you to Lori Clemons and the staff at Arbor Youth Services for effecting positive change in Lexington!