The programs aimed at lifting up Jerusalem's at-risk youths

Some 30,000 teens falling on the spectrum of at-risk behavior are based in Jerusalem.

September 29, 2017 12:42
3 minute read.

A homeless man lies on the street.. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)


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Jerusalem attracts troubled youth, as well as those dedicated to helping them. Some 30,000 teens fall somewhere on the spectrum of at-risk behavior in the city.

The Jerusalem Innovation Team, or I-team for short, teamed up with the municipality in 2015 in an attempt to create a better way to reach these youngsters.

They run the gamut from those who live at home and go to school with problematic behavior, to those who are addicted to drugs, to the rare instances of homelessness. The most recent research found last winter that there were 168 homeless youth in the capital.

A majority have criminal records, some sort of experience substance abuse and come from haredi households or newly religious homes, and they tend to migrate from the periphery, including settlements, to Jerusalem.

Those coming from religious homes tend to gravitate to Jerusalem in an effort to address their spiritual inquiries, whereas most youth who define themselves as homosexual or transsexual end up in Tel Aviv.

There are 298 programs based in Jerusalem that are designed to help these 30,000 children. Many of them end up slipping through the cracks.

For the past two years, the I-team undertook extensive fieldwork and research to get a handle on this problem in Jerusalem but also to understand what is going on with these hundreds of groups.

The I-teams are the invention of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies, which funds the operation that reaches 25 cities worldwide, including Tel Aviv and, starting earlier this year, Beersheba.

Lior Yellin Frajnd is the product manager for the Jerusalem I-team and works with youth at risk, as well as a facilitator between city services and their NGO counterparts.

For two years she has been in charge of counting, mapping and scaling of youth at risk as well as producing qualitative and quantitative analysis of their behavior.

Her research yielded seven prototypes of at-risk youth, seen as key to providing the right kind of care.

“Once you know how to work with a certain ‘type,’ you can figure out how to help the individual,” said Yellin Frajnd.

She explained her research on the institutions and programs: “Most places deal with addicts or mental health issues or both, and most places can’t handle both addiction and mental health issues at the same time.”

Dena Schere, spokeswoman for I-team Jerusalem, said, “Our goal is to improve the lives of the residents [the word she used for youth at risk].”

She continued, “We are not an outside consulting team, we don’t tell the municipality what to do, our model is to” do the research and provide the tools to do the job.

Last Monday, a conference held in the capital, “Working With What Exists,” looked to sum up two years of work by the municipality and the I-Team together with NGOs in the fields of research, mapping, initiating programs and creating new frameworks for cooperation.

The conference was attended by the members of Jerusalem’s homeless youth strategy and field teams, social workers and representatives of dozens of NGOs, as well as members of the public sector on the national and municipal level.

“The Jerusalem Municipality is responsible for leading and implementing an in-depth process to improve the lives of youth-at-risk in the city, and we see local NGOs as central partners in the process,” said Mayor Nir Barkat. “I have no doubt that the process we initiated and the teams that we have established will have a notable impact on the treatment of youth at risk. I am proud to say that the work being done in Jerusalem with youth at risk is saving lives.”

Young people who were previously homeless were also in attendance and participated in workshops that produced ideas for next steps in helping Jerusalem’s homeless youth.

Schere explained that these steps included implementing the findings of the two years of research: “We made two advances, vertically and horizontally.

Vertically, we cleared up a significant amount of bureaucratic traffic in order to give more power to the field workers, the people actually working with the kids, and horizontally, to allow for more effective communication and sharing of ideas among all of these groups.” Yellin Frajnd concluded: “Some we try to get them back home, some we try to bring them into new communities, and some we are just providing them with the right type of help, and that is the main goal, to get them help.”

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