Volunteers of America, Dakotas has opened their new space for the Axis180 program. Melissa Jungemann, Axis 180 Director, provided us some information about the program and how program serves homeless youth.
Can you tell us about Volunteers of America, Dakotas?
Volunteers of America, Dakotas is called by the Gospel to guide people to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Reaching out to help those whom we are called to serve achieve their full potential, Volunteers of America, Dakotas demonstrates God’s love by: guiding people with behavioral health needs; uplifting children, youth and families; supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities; and strengthening those struggling with homelessness.
How does the organization help children and people in crisis?
Volunteers of America, Dakotas serves people on the path to transformation through a ministry of services led by trained, professional staff. We emphasize commitment, compassion, and empowerment in all we do. We provide a number of services within our four focus areas of behavioral health; children, youth, and families; intellectual and developmental disabilities; and homelessness, which includes Axis180, a program providing transitional housing and supports to young people ages 16-21 who are experiencing homelessness.
How has the Axis180 services evolved in relation to COVID-19?
In May 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, Axis180 opened its newly constructed apartment building. This new building offers 21 apartment units, doubling the program’s previous capacity of 10.
While some service provisions have changed due to COVID-19, the pandemic has also given staff a unique opportunity to teach life skills to our participants outside of the normal cooking and budgeting, skills like adaptability, flexibility, and community cohesiveness that come along with COVID-19 struggles. Participants see our staff modeling precautions, guidelines and measures to keep everyone safe without hesitation or complaint.
What does a current day look like now for Axis180?
During the school year, it is normally off to school, classes and work. Summers look a little different for Axis180. Some youth have finished school (two just graduated) and are looking for full-time summer employment or increased hours. Participants are busy heading to work, enjoying time in the community, or chilling in their new apartments. Staff are busy checking in with participants, assisting with whatever needs or questions they may have, but also just interacting with them to know that we are here for them.
What is one unique thing you love about your role?
I love that I get to supervise a committed group of staff who have the best interests of the participants in mind and want them to succeed in all they do. I also get to interact with participants on a regular basis, seeing how their day is going, answering questions. The unique thing is it isn't just staff OR participants…I get to work with both, which is sometimes not the case in administrative roles.
What is something you want people to know about needs and/or services in our community?
There are wonderful organizations doing wonderful work, and a lot of the time people in our community don’t even know the magnitude of what is happening. Services like Axis180 become "best kept secrets," but we would rather everyone know about it. I encourage people to learn and educate themselves about what is out there, because you never know when you may need to pass along the info.
What is a favorite summer activity?
It is a recent fave, but enjoying the shows at the Levitt at the Falls. I have a few new favorite bands thanks to the experience.
Do you have any recommended hidden gems in Sioux Empire for people to explore this summer?
Levitt at the Falls. It really is a fun experience for everyone to enjoy.
Learn more about Axis 180 services at: https://www.voa-dakotas.org/our-service-areas/homelessness