This year’s Cropped benefiting organization is the NEPA Youth Shelter, whose mission is to provide provide quality emergency shelter and related services to unaccompanied youth ages 14 through high school graduation from all counties in our region. Located on Wyoming Avenue in Scranton, the shelter is a safe haven for young people who have nowhere else to go. We sat down with board member April Guse to find out more about the Shelter and how they plan to use the Cropped competition to help further their mission.

Can you tell us a little bit about the NEPA Youth Shelter?
We were born from experiences with LGBT youth who were looking for a safe place to go if they were kicked out of their homes. There were few resources for any kid in crisis in our area if a teen was over the age of 18. We knew if we put a shingle on a house that said “Shelter,” no teen would come anywhere near us because they were already extremely vulnerable and mistrusting of adults.We decided to open an after school drop-in center so that we could establish relationships with teens so that when a crisis did occur, they would come to us and that’s exactly what happened. We opened on October 30, 2017 and we had our first homeless teen come to us in May 2018. We have served 10 homeless teens since. At our drop-in center, we enrolled 150 teens our first year, averaging 22 per day. In our second school year, we enrolled 163 teens and served an average of 25 per day. In our third academic year, which began on August 28, we have enrolled 70 teens and we are averaging 35 teens per day. There is clearly a need for what we offer.

What are you hoping to gain as a result of the Cropped competition?  

We hope to expand our support base. We are entirely financed by private donations and small foundations. We have more than 1,500 likes on Facebook and a smaller presence on Instagram and Twitter. We want to secure a building to create apartments for homeless teens to live in while they finish their education. To do this, we really need to reach a broader audience. We also hope to connect with more teens via the social media they use most often.

What advice do you have to other non-profits seeking creative assistance?

Don’t be afraid to break out of your box and try new things. Every experience has something to offer. Use your resources to the fullest extent. Ask your contacts for more contacts. Sometimes, just post a question or need on social media and see what comes back to you.

For more information about the NEPA Youth Shelter, visit www.nepayouthshelter.org.