One lunch at a time

Freshman helps combat youth homelessness at YES

Take a moment to imagine not knowing where your next meal is coming from or not having a stable home to return to. Now picture this along with being a teenager still discovering their place in the world. 

Freshman Amelia Wheeler helps  combat youth homelessness in Omaha through Youth Emergency Services. She  discovered YES volunteering with her church and found a passion in her service.

“The feeling of helping others in need is the best part. It makes me happy to know that somebody is going to get that meal, and it is probably going to make their day,” Wheeler said.

YES is an organization that helps youth experiencing homelessness by providing critically needed resources. The goal is to provide food, shelter, clothing, and safety to create a support system for homeless youth. 

“We work with youth and young adults to help find resources they need, whether that be housing sustainability, independent living skills, or just helping them get off their feet,” Street Outreach Supervisor Jamise Williams said. “Our main goal is to see them be successful and eventually come back and support others.”

YES is a program that emphasizes the importance of volunteer work, donations, and making connections with youth. Wheeler is a key stepping stone when it comes to helping the vision of YES succeed according to Williams. 

She provides boxed lunches and dinners for individuals. While this may seem like a small act, every role is essential to YES. YES was originally volunteer based and volunteers like Wheeler are important to the organization.

 “Volunteers are very important to our work and without them YES would not look the same.” Williams said. 

YES continues to rely on volunteers to provide hygiene products, clothes, food, and home goods. Especially during the pandemic where volunteering in person has been limited, people like Wheeler are essential to providing for youth. 

Wheeler has continued to serve  even with new restrictions such as only providing store bought food. This limits the chance of Covid-19 spread in youth involved with YES. Even with these restrictions, Wheeler still has found the bright side by leaving personalized letters in each lunch and dinner. 

“I like to add a written letter to each lunch. Just something that I hope would make them smile,” Wheeler said. 

Though they are restricted, YES still has plans over the holiday season. Reinventing their Thanksgiving dinner, they have decided to hand deliver dinners to people who ask. The organization would like to maintain some level of personal connection during these times. 

“YES brings the voice of youth experiencing homelessness to the community.  Our goal is to end youth homelessness and if it does occur, it is rare, brief and doesn’t happen again,” Executive Director Mary Meints. 

Wheeler adds to the connection YES is looking for to set youth back on the right path. One letter at a time,Wheeler is helping bring YES one step closer to declining the rate of youth homlessnes in Omaha.