PUBLIC PROFILE: Karen Phillips Development Director, Maslow Project
RVM: Maslow Project talks about “a hand up, not a handout.” Can you explain a bit more about what this looks like?
KP: Generally, people think of a “handout” as something you give to someone that meets an immediate need (like food/hunger), but doesn’t change anything in the larger picture. A “hand up”, in contrast, helps people build the skills they need in order to move toward a brighter future.
While Maslow Project does distribute items like food, clothing, hygiene supplies, and diapers to the homeless youth and families we serve; we do so in order to bring an element of stability into their lives so that they can stop living in “crisis mode,” and begin instead to focus on future possibilities—like graduating from high school, enrolling in post-secondary education, or building the personal and employment-related skills that will make them successful in their search for a good job.
RVM: How do kids find out about Maslow Project, or get involved?
KP: Maslow Project believes in getting the word out in as many ways as possible, in order to “meet kids where they’re at” and minimize any barriers they might have to accessing our services. The ways kids can find out about Maslow Project include: Word of mouth; Maslow’s website (MaslowProject.com) and our social media presence; School-based services in the Medford, Rogue River, Ashland, Phoenix-Talent, Grants Pass, and Three Rivers School Districts; Street and community-based outreach throughout Jackson and Josephine County; Referrals from other community partners; Maslow’s Medford Drop In Center at 500 Monroe Street.
RVM: Homelessness is a real problem in southern Oregon. But it is more than not having a place to live, right?
KP: Yes! The impacts of homelessness on youth are profound, and can be long-lasting if they’re not addressed. To begin with, nationally, only 25 percent of homeless high school seniors end up graduating from high school. 25 percent! Can you imagine how hard it will be for those youth to escape a life of poverty without even a high school diploma?
In addition, numerous major studies show that homeless youth: go hungry at twice the rate of other youth, are sick four times more often, are four times more likely to show delayed development, and experience mental health problems at up to 11 times the rate of the general population.
Maslow Project’s overarching goal is to reverse these trends, by bringing an element of stability into kids’ lives, so they can focus on staying in school; and by building resiliency in our clients, so that they’re able to work through some of the trauma that they’ve experienced in their young lives.
And it’s working. Last year, 75 percent of the high school seniors we provided with case management services graduated on time, at a rate that is three times the national average!
RVM: What does success look like?
KP: Every individual we work with has a different vision of what “success” looks like. For some, success is as simple as getting a GED so that they can find a job and support themselves. Others are solely focused on finding a safe and stable place to live for their families. And still others have dreams of going on to college and entering a career that will enable them to help other youth and families in need.
Whatever their goal, our staff work closely with them to support their efforts in reaching that vision. Today, we have Maslow graduates attending everything from community colleges to top-tier universities (some on full-ride scholarships!), and working in businesses and nonprofits throughout the Rogue Valley and beyond – even one former client who now works for NASA.
RVM: How did you get involved with Maslow Project?
KP: I had already been familiar with the work of Maslow Project for several years when I came across their job posting for a Development Director, so I jumped at the opportunity to apply. That was over five years ago, and I continue to feel really fortunate that I get do work for such a dedicated, impactful organization!
RVM: What advice do you give to someone who wants to help out a homeless child?
KP: First of all, I’d thank them for wanting to help! If there’s a specific homeless youth you want to help, start by asking them if they know about Maslow Project. We work with homeless youth (aged 0-21) and their families throughout Jackson and Josephine County and offer a comprehensive assortment of wrap-around supportive services to our clients, as well as being able to easily connect them to other community-based services and programs.
In addition, consider making a donation to Maslow Project! Financial donations are always welcome, of course. But we also welcome donations of non-perishable food; hygiene supplies; new or gently-used clothing for kids aged 0-21; diapers; and warm coats, hats, and gloves. For more information on how you can help, please give Maslow Project a call at (541) 608-6868 or visit our website.