Secretary Sebelius Visits Cincinnati Runaway and Homeless Youth Program

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius paid a visit this month to one of the longest running runaway and homeless youth programs in the nation.

Secretary Sebelius went to Ohio at the invitation of Bob Mecum, president and CEO of Lighthouse Youth Services, who met her in Washington last year. As chair of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Secretary leads the nation’s campaign to end youth and family homelessness by 2020.

During her visit, Secretary Sebelius took advantage of the opportunity to get feedback from an organization with deep experience working with homeless youth. A Family and Youth Services Bureau grantee, Lighthouse has served runaway and homeless youth since 1975.

Secretary Sebelius and her delegation toured the youth crisis center and the shelter run by Lighthouse. When she met with young people, Mecum said, Secretary Sebelius listened more than she spoke.

The young people served as experts on youth homelessness, Mecum said, telling their visitors about the resources and services they need and how systems for homeless youth could improve.

Mecum hopes to maintain the discussion with the Secretary and her staff during her tenure as head of the council. They established a point person on both sides to continue the conversation, and the Secretary’s office asked for specific recommendations for how to better serve homeless youth.

“She asked probing questions. She took notes. She was fully engaged with the staff and the young people,” Mecum said. “Whatever happens from this point, we’ll feel like we were truly listened to.”

Also on the visit were Deputy Assistant Secretary Donald Moulds; Administration on Children, Youth, and Families Commissioner Bryan Samuels; and Jennifer Ho, deputy director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Learn more about FYSB’s grant programs for organizations that serve runaway and homeless youth.