Friends of Oz, we are deeply touched by those of you who have reached out to us during these challenging times and asked about our needs. As we all navigate this new normal together, we want you to know that Project Oz is working harder than ever to meet the needs of youth in our community in new ways.
We continue to provide safe shelter and support for young people experiencing homelessness, many of whom are now also feeling the impact of job loss, a strained support system, and interrupted plans for the future. We have also taken steps to adjust services to protect the health of our clients, staff, and community, while continuing essential operations to support youth who have nowhere else to turn.
If you know of a young person who is struggling right now, please help them connect to us. They can:
- Call our office at 309-827-0377 during regular business hours (8:30-4:30); or
- Call the 2-1-1 crisis hotline after hours to be connected to our on-call staff; or
- Young people experiencing a crisis may also go to the closest Bloomington/Normal fire station- these serve as “Safe Places” and staff are trained to connect youth to us; or
- Text the word “safe” and current location to 4HELP (44357) to reach the National Safe Place helpline and connect to trained counselors.
24/7 Crisis Response and Emergency Shelter Still Available
An essential element of “sheltering in place” is having a safe place to stay. Our office building is closed and our crisis staff are working remotely as much as possible. We continue, however, to offer 24/7 crisis response and emergency shelter for any youth between the ages of 10 and 23 who is experiencing a housing or family crisis. We also continue to process new clients and referrals.
Youth Housing Program
All of Project Oz’s Youth Housing and Outreach Programs are operating, providing safe, supportive environments for young people experiencing homelessness, in which to shelter in place and receive meals and other services. We are currently housing 26 young people, along with their 11 children or infants, in transitional living apartments or our emergency shelter. On-going case management is being done virtually through phone or video calls.
Youth Employment Program
Many young people have been impacted by job loss due to COVID-19. We continue to enroll new clients virtually and provide on-going support to existing clients. We are also working to connect youth looking for work to employers who are currently hiring. If your company or organization is hiring, please reach out to us and let us know about your needs.
The school closures have affected our in-school services, including Substance Use Prevention Education, Ending the Silence, and Youth Empowered Schools programs. Our staff are working closely with school administrators to provide virtual lessons to be used as part of e-learning where possible and to offer virtual support services to students and teachers.
Many of our friends are asking what they can do to help. Right now our biggest needs are for non-medical grade masks for staff and clients, shelf stable snacks and microwaveable meals (for those clients who do not have access to a full kitchen), cleaning supplies, and small increment grocery store gift cards. To set up a contact-free drop-off or to send e-gift cards, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, you may also click here to make an online contribution to Project Oz. Thank you for standing with us to support youth during this time!