OSCEOLA COUNTY — Regardless of age, all people at least occasionally have problems.

Youth are no exception.

Mecosta and Osceola counties have a program in place to reach out to runaways and homeless youth.

The Youth Attention Center is located in the Mecosta County Courthouse —  Room 134 on the first floor.

It offers programs to provide specific help for specific situations.  Reflections is a 90-day outreach.  Through it, youngsters ages 12-17 can have what could be classified a time-out.  A time to reflect and deal with such issues as arguing, or having other problems getting along at home.  It aids runaways by allowing them space to sort things out, and having help in the sorting.

Another program provides help to at-risk youngsters at home and in the schools.  That programs provides help in dealing with relationships, self-esteem issues, making choices.

In some situations, the Center staff can “...borrow a bed from the DHS, and give them more intense help,” according to director Amy Eddinger.  Through it, it’s not a matter of coming to an office, but rather the office outreaching into the home.

Another program, Transitions, offers help to homeless individuals between 16-21 years of age, or those who are at risk of being homeless.  They may lack certain living skills, and this outreach could consist of such help as how to apply for jobs, doing a resume, passing a driver’s test or getting a license, maybe even preparing meals.

The goal is to help the individual set goals and learn to live successfully.  That program usually has a 10-15 person caseload.

The Youth Attention Center is staffed by Eddinger and Angela Pugh, a caseworker.  They outreach to both counties, which includes approximately 20 schools.

In addition, the office offered a summer program to clients “and it worked well,” Eddinger noted.  In included such activities as canoeing, bowling, and baseball games.  Fun, but instructional and helpful to the youngsters involved as well.

“We also work with community service clients,” she said, “and in that we focus on building skills and working in a positive environment.”

She noted that need has increased.

The homeless youth program is new to the Center, “however, we have noticed a real significant increase in our transition focus.”

It was noted that until age 17, youngsters having difficulties are kept in their homes when at all possible.  Eddinger noted that sometimes parents have a tendency to try to keep problems hidden, “and try to resolve their own issues.  We’re not miracle workers,” she noted, but a fresh perspective can be extremely helpful during those growing up years.

Parents are welcome to call the Youth Attention Center office at (231) 592-0129 anytime.  Someone is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Eddinger said that anybody can call in a referral, and under certain criteria, if a child of any age calls, we can talk.  Kids can call us any time.”

The caseworker added that another benefit to the program is the confidentiality rule.  “They can trust us and really tell us what’s actually going on in their lives in the 1:1 meetings we have at the schools, and unless it’s something illegal or someone may be planning to harm himself or someone else, it can be kept confidential.”

Eddinger added that sometimes even young children just need someone to hear them, “and we will.”

October’s focus was on the homeless, and the national  focus during November is on runaways.  It is the goal of the Youth Attention Center to not only hear these youngsters, and offer help if need be, but also to help develop skills.