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What you need to know for 02/20/2017

CAPTAIN to help Amsterdam teens at risk of homelessness

CAPTAIN to help Amsterdam teens at risk of homelessness

A youth and family organization expanding its reach into Amsterdam plans to search out kids ages 13-

A youth and family organization expanding its reach into Amsterdam plans to search out kids ages 13-21 who are going down the wrong path and may wind up living on the streets.

Clifton Park-based CAPTAIN Youth and Family Services will be sending professionals to the city at the end of this month to establish a youth drop-in center.

Created in 1977, CAPTAIN — Community Action for Parents, Teens And Interested Neighbors — has been focused on Saratoga County for decades. But Program Services Director Andy Gilpin said the need extends beyond Saratoga County, and recently approved federal funding will allow the group to expand programs into Fulton, Montgomery and Rensselaer counties.

The organization is being welcomed in Amsterdam, where Recreation Director Robert Spagnola said his continued interaction with area children shows some are in a difficult situation. The city over the past year has been welcoming youths to the old Bacon School, which has been turned into a recreation center, and he said some youth are in need of specialized help.

“Once we got the Bacon School going as a recreation center, to find out what some kids go through was really eye-opening,” Spagnola said.

Gilpin said the organization will bring its Street Outreach program to the city of 18,290 people, sending trained workers out to find children who could use guidance.

“What we find a lot of times is kids living in crisis,” he said.

CAPTAIN runs five youth-specific shelters and transitional living programs able to move at-risk youth into their own housing.

“Our professional and caring staff, they can find ways to help connect those kids to shelters,” Gilpin said.

In some cases, services are available but the youth aren’t aware of them. In other cases, like Amsterdam, there is no place to go.

“So there’s an underserved population in those areas we really felt it was important for us to reach out to,” Gilpin said.

The city has its own offering, the Art Center at 303 E. Main St., where these youths will be able to stop by, do laundry and meet with people who can help them improve their lives.

Some youth ages 13-21 are in a particularly difficult situation — a time of transition — and fall through gaps in standard services such as those available to single mothers.

“There are not as many support services so we try to fill that gap a little,” Gilpin said.

Often, he said, workers are able to find youths most in need simply by speaking with others their age, who point them in the right direction.

Workers in the Street Outreach program have a variety of tools at their disposal. They will be able to help kids with transportation to programs or address more-severe needs like clothing, food and hygiene supplies.

The city and CAPTAIN are holding an event to highlight the effort from 1 to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 27, at 303 E. Main St.

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