The homeless youth in our community can be hard to spot.

“You typically don’t see them on the side of the road holding a sign,” said Leah Harrison, Children’s Home Society of Florida senior director of development and advancement.

Harrison said many young people without homes will perpetually couch surf, drifting between different residences. Harrison and her team are hopeful they can help these youth not only find stable housing but set them on the path to be successful and self-sufficient.

CHS is expanding three of its programs aimed at giving students more opportunities to be engaged in social activities and helping young survivors of abuse and homelessness find resources and stability.

The program expansions were made possible by a $100,000 donation from the Sansing family, which presented the check to CHS on Aug. 8.

Sandy Sansing presents Children’s Home Society representatives with a $100,000 donation at his Nissan dealership on Aug. 8.

CHS is a nonprofit focused on child welfare with a mission to help children reach their full potential, and for decades, Sansing and his family have been supporters of people and organizations that assist children in need.

“Kids are totally dependent on somebody helping them,” Sansing said. “They cannot go, ‘Get a job,’ or they cannot do anything unless somebody gives them a chance, and I want to help every child be able to get an education and have food so their bodies and their brains can grow and function well.”

The first portion of the donation has already been allocated to C.A. Weis Elementary School, a community partnership school supported by a group of local organizations including Community Health of Northwest Florida, Escambia County Public Schools, the University of West Florida and CHS.

CHS Regional Director Lindsey Cannon said with the help of donors, CHS has been able to give C.A. Weis students the opportunity to participate in drumline and step teams, as well as in the school’s ambassador program.

The students who have participated in the programs have learned “the value of teamwork and self-worth, investments that will serve these children over a lifetime,” Cannon said.

The donation will also help to fund Healthy Families and Homeless Youth programs from CHS. The Healthy Families program is centered on helping survivors of abuse.

“Every week, they have their caseworker that’s there with them and it really is just to wrap the services around them. A lot of them either are living in poverty, they have an unexpected pregnancy,” Harrison said as examples of the challenges they face.

The work CHS does with homeless youth is twofold. The organization offers and covers the costs of transitional housing for homeless youth and operates what it calls Street Solutions.

“It’s a newer program,” Harrison said, about Street Solutions, which falls under the umbrella of the nonprofit’s Homeless Youth program. “It has really allowed us to get out into the community. This funding goes to cover housing for the homeless youth, but also to wrap youth services and client needs around them, like job placement, life skills, training, and clothing and materials, things like that, that they need.”

The Sansing family routinely donates to causes benefitting children, and CHS officials said the most recent gift will help the organization meet the highest needs of our community in 2022, including combating child abuse, neglect, homelessness and human trafficking.

“We at Children’s Home Society are cannot say thank you enough for your giving hearts, partnership, your friendship, your investment in our community and commitment to ensuring a better future for our children,” Cannon said to the Sansings at the ceremony. “Thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you again.”

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By Colin Warren-Hicks