What were you like as an 18-year-old? Could you have gotten a job, went to college, rented your own place, and earned enough income to feed and clothe yourself? Beyond finances, what if you had no emotional support? Imagine being 18 and no one cared if you ate breakfast that morning, if you aced the test, if you were the target of a bully. What if there was no one around to even care if you were living or dead?
I moved out when I was 18. I had a job and I went to college. I took out student loans. But I often couldn’t pay my rent, and Mom and Dad helped. I often went home and raided Mom’s pantry, begged relatives for castoff furniture, and asked for clothes for Christmas. I had tons of help: financial and emotional. I can’t count the times I called Mom and Dad to cry, to navigate a tough situation, or to share my joy.
In 2012, 23,439 American children in foster care turned 18 and were “emancipated” or “aged out”. This means most of them were put into the world on their own without housing, financial assistance, or emotional support. Bringing it closer to home, 50 kids in Washoe County age-out of social services each year.
What happens to these kids after they age out? Recent studies find one in five will become homeless. By age 24, only half will be employed. Less than 3% will ever earn a college degree. 71% of the girls will be pregnant by the time they are 21. One in four will have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (that’s twice the rate of the US war veterans). And many will move back into government systems: juvenile centers and even prison.
I love food and I love conducting business meetings at local restaurants. One such lunch/meeting found me at a funky restaurant in Midtown Reno. The young man serving me was totally professional and personable. I can’t even remember his name, but he asked me to call him Red (after this amazing halo of great red curls). He mentioned he lived at The Eddy House and that’s when I first heard about this amazing non-profit.
Based in Reno, The Eddy House provides residential housing to young males who have aged out of foster care. Their mission is to “provide an organized, consistent, and structured lifestyle to disadvantaged and abandoned young adults who have a history of instability and transience”. In short: they provide a home for aged out boys. A safe place where the boys can go to school, get a job, and have that essential emotional support to help them succeed. To have a place where someone cares how they did in the interview, what they ate for breakfast, and ultimately, if they’re alive.
I had the gift of meeting the founder of The Eddy House, Lynette Eddy. A native of Truckee, Lynette first studied Hospitality. She’s always had a passion for helping people. She even worked in Africa, helping at a hospice serving kids with AIDs whose parents had died of AIDs. After years of experience working with teens in crisis, Lynette pursued her Master’s Degree in Social Work from UNR.
When tragedy struck, taking Lynette’s husband Robert’s life, Lynette turned her grief and love for helping into the creation of The Eddy House. Founded with her husband’s life insurance policy, Lynette bought a five bedroom house in Northwest Reno which became home to The Eddy House. Together with her son, Brian, this powerful team began helping young males figure life out.
The residents of The Eddy House have supportive relationships such as peers, mentors, and of course, the Eddy’s. They are encouraged to continue their education: first, finish high-school; then, earn a college degree or work certificate. In addition to education, the Eddy’s ensure the boys’ medical, dental, and mental health needs are met. They help them navigate things such as getting a driver’s license, filling out job applications, and creating bank accounts.
The boys are ready to “launch out” (Lynette’s term) once they’ve reached their educational and/or work goals, established a bank account, and mastered the life skills they need to live independently. Since the inception in 2011, the Eddy’s have helped 20 boys. They’re typically referred to Lynette through social service. With eight boys in the Eddy House right now, the house is definitely full.
In addition to The Eddy House, Lynette has some big plans in place (ideally opening in March 2015) to help many more aged out youth. Lynette and her team are providers within RYN (Reno Youth Network), a campaign of the You’N-I (Youth Network Initiative) convened by The Community Foundation of Western Nevada. RYN is a community-wide program to help homeless, runaway, unattached, and aged-out foster care youth ages 12-24 in Reno. One of their biggest features is a searchable website where youth can search by their gender, age, current location, and needs and find resources available to them. For example, a 19-year-old boy could say he was on the corner of Sinclair and Liberty and that he was hungry. Over 30 resources will appear listing location, directions to get there, the help they can provide, hours of service, a phone number, etc.
The Eddy House has been asked to create and run the Youth Downtown Drop-In Center. In a convenient location, the center will be a safe place for Reno’s challenged youth to be off the streets and have access to basic needs, employment, and educational opportunities. Youth can drop-in to take a shower, get some food, and get emotional and social help. Very soon, the Youth Downtown Drop-In Center will be listed as an available option within the RYN website. In partnership with CSA (Community Services Agency), they’ll offer workshops on resume writing, interviewing skills, and provide connections to employers in the community – ideally helping the youth to find jobs. Bringing it back to The Eddy House boys, they’ll help staff the drop-in center, giving them real-world work experience to add to their resumes and life skills.
I’m in awe of Lynette and her contributions to society, specifically the aged out males in our community. When I think kindness, I think of Lynette. Sharing her story and that of her organization’s mission is one small thing I wanted to do to help the cause. If you’re looking to do something kind for an organization that can truly use your support, consider donating materials – big or small – for The Eddy House or the upcoming Youth Downtown Drop-In Center.
Their wish list includes:
- Gift cards (to WalMart, Target, etc.)
- Bedding: Sheets (single), blankets, pillows
- Cleaning supplies (laundry soap, etc.)
- Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, soap, face wash, razors, and shaving cream)
- Men and Women’s clothes
- Microwavable food
- Paper plates and cups
- Kitchen supplies (bowls, platters, etc.)
- Desks (3-7) with chairs
- A group table with chairs
- A mobile whiteboard
- Televisions (they need 2)
- Ping pong balls and paddles
- A Playstation or Xbox with games and controllers
- Folding tables for laundry
- Outdoor furniture
- A pool table
- A washer and dryer
To drop off supplies, email Lynette Eddy to arrange a time; she’ll also let you know where to bring the supplies.