On October 10, groups across Milwaukee gathered for On the Table Milwaukee to have bold and candid conversations about equity in the city.
On the Table MKE, created by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, began in 2017. Since then 5,000 residents throughout the region have participated in forums to address opportunities and challenges facing our communities.
SaintA staff and guests from MATC, Rescare Workforce Services and Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission came together for breakfast and the opportunity to discuss the challenges facing the youth we serve.
This year, our topic was “Belonging – A Discussion about Equity and Inclusion as it relates to Housing and Employment of Young Adults.”
Framework of Stability
The SaintA Youth Transitioning to Adulthood program supports and empowers youth aged 18-23 as they navigate life after the foster care system. They’re provided with services in the areas we call the 5 Pillars of Stability. Staff use the 5 Pillars framework to help youth successfully transition into adulthood.
“My commitment is to kids who’ve aged out (of foster care),” says Demonte Dismuke, SaintA YTA Program Manager. “If a youth ages out at or below the poverty line, we’ve failed to give them a stable beginning to adulthood,” he continues.
Our On the Table discussion was held during breakfast and after sharing a meal, we exchanged our plates for a sheet of paper. The paper contained a young person’s story. You could be an 18-year-old with a GED, but a regular marijuana user; a 20-year-old couch-surfer with an infant; or any other scenario representing personal challenges for youth.
Participants got a brief experience of how these barriers keep youth from thriving. Role-playing included staff trying to make their way through stations in attempt to secure housing and employment for themselves as former foster youth.
Quickly, one could see how survival wasn’t simple or guaranteed. If you can’t pass a drug test, or don’t have reliable transportation, it’s nearly impossible to get and maintain a job. If you do find employment, can you survive on minimum wage or part-time hours?
One staff member admitted to being dishonest about their experiences when they saw others being turned down.
For our youth, this is the reality. They don’t always have the support systems and resources necessary to have stable lives, and that’s what Demonte and his staff aim to fix.
On the Table isn’t just about food and conversations. Action is the next step. “We want a city-wide call for youth. We need to be everywhere,” Demonte says.
There are currently 150 youth enrolled in the YTA program, but there are twice as many estimated to be eligible. Demonte says there is a forthcoming YTA City Tour.
If you know a foster youth who could benefit from resources in any of the five pillars – education, employment, health, housing or caring connections – please have them contact Demonte Dismuke, Youth Services Program Manager, at 474-465-5134 or firstname.lastname@example.org