Many young people who join gangs do so to receive the structure and support ideally provided by a family. When stresses – emotional, financial, and/or cultural – take their toll on families, teenagers are especially vulnerable to defining themselves through drug use and gang membership. It is these high-risk young people that the Alternative House outreach programs target.
Alternative House's neighborhood outreach programs began in December 1993 to reach out to youth in their own neighborhoods. Today the program includes a street outreach van stocked with food, clothing, and other survival supplies and neighborhood-based counselors who go into the streets to find and help young people in need.
The Alternative House van is a common site on the streets of Culmore, Annandale, and East Springfield. Our counselors visit these neighborhoods in our van to distribute "survival supplies" to young people who need help. We provide coats in winter, water in summer and referrals to medical care year round.
Our counselors let young people know that if they don't have a safe place to stay, our Emergency Shelter for Teenagers can help them. They also tell teens about the Culmore Teen Center and other safe areas to gather. In 2010 our Counselors provided assistance to youth almost 6,000 times.