Media Highlights

Utilizing The Youth & Business Toolkit – A Personal Story

by Caitlin Ryan   •  

The following is a guest post by Caitlin Ryan, Assistant Director of New Hope Family Shelter, describing their experience using the Youth & Business Toolkit

After attending the Opportunity Nation Summit in September 2012, I was thrilled to be a part of this “shared plan to restore opportunity” in the United States. During the week of action, in October I shared the Opportunity Index with my friends and colleagues and discussed ways in which we could work together to support the goals of the shared plan.

During this time, I took a moment to sit down with my boss and discuss the Youth & Business Toolkit, referencing the Opportunity Nation website, and highlighting some of the ways that our organization might utilize these tools in the future.

I currently serve as the Assistant Director of New Hope Family Shelter in Bloomington, Indiana. New Hope is the only shelter in Monroe County that keeps families together during an instance of homelessness, providing shelter and services for families as they work to regain self-sufficiency. In doing this, we have adapted a multi-faceted approach for combatting homelessness in our community that is centered on a collaborative effort involving multiple agencies and individuals within the community. By working with other organizations and businesses within the community, we are able to better address our residents’ individual needs and begin to work on the root causes of homelessness.

As the Director of New Hope, Elaine Guinn, and I navigated the Youth & Business Toolkit, we reflected on the many ways in which New Hope is already embracing these concepts as a priority. The majority of New Hope’s volunteers, staff, and interns are young people between the ages of 18-24. This is heavily influenced by the fact that we operate in a college town, where the number of youth with an interest in gaining job skills is quite high.

Offering opportunities for such youth at our shelter is beneficial to both parties as we gain much needed help in carrying out our mission in the form of volunteer hours, and the individuals serving with us gain a wide variety of skills that will be useful for them in the future as they search for jobs beyond their college years. We also have opportunities for young people that may be categorized as “Learn & Earn” programs, as indicated on the website. Although our budget for compensating staff is small, we are able to partner with the local university and coordinate the receipt of academic credit for work at our shelter. This has proven to be particularly effective with interns in social work, marketing, and fundraising.

In addition to considering ways in which our mission already overlaps with the goals set out in the Youth & Business Toolkit, we also reflected on the idea of expanding this framework and applying it to our programming for residents. Although not all of our residents are young people, many of them have fallen off the ladder of opportunity, so to speak, and could use one of these experiences (e.g. Learn & EarnWork Ready Skills Training) as a way to hop back on to the ladder. We are exploring the possibility of expanding our current networks to additional local businesses and organizations that might be able to provide such programs for our residents who are in need of jobs. This would complement our life skills programming well by adding a hands-on component.

At the end of the day, my boss and I decided that we would continue to develop this further, especially as we move forward to open a new shelter house in December of 2012, doubling our capacity and increasing our ability to serve the community.


We are incredibly thankful to Caitlin Ryan for sharing their story using the Youth & Business Toolkit and would love to hear from you.  How have you used the Youth & Business Toolkit and in what ways have you found it helfpul to your efforts?


Caitlin Ryan

Assistant Director of New Hope Family Shelter

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