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Why we help: Inspired by clients at emergency youth shelter

Story by Mountain Xpress

Posted on  

Child and youth homelessness are never OK. I have seen children living outside in our community and wanted to be part of the solution. As the program manager at Trinity Place emergency youth shelter with Caring for Children/Eckerd, I love that I get to blend my passions/interests of individual connection/empowerment with larger systems of community/inclusion/accessibility. I appreciate getting to use my cumulative work experience to strengthen families and build relationships with other amazing resources in Buncombe County.

I was drawn to pursue this focus when I was working with unhoused adults and found that a significant amount of them had spent time in the foster care system as children. So I decided to move upstream and be a source of support for youths and address the generational trauma and adverse childhood experiences that can lead to homelessness. The Caring for Children programs are committed to recalibrating the systems in place and interrupting these cycles by providing relief to children and families.

I am honestly so inspired by the clients that I get to know/support and their ongoing resiliency, openness and dedication. I am also constantly amazed by my co-workers (current and past) who demonstrate incredible amounts of compassion, creativity, authenticity and grace with the children/families they serve! Running into folks who were at Trinity Place when they were children — and who now are healthy, empowered adults — is inspiring. Having former clients express the impact of having a safe place to come when nobody was showing up for them, and how this resulted in them feeling less invisible, makes this work so powerful. I have clients who will be in my heart forever because watching them has also changed me.

Some of the greatest hurdles for our organization are too many families and children in need of help, and not enough foster families or funding to support services. We have just created a new Foster CARING Program, where individuals, couples and families can provide long- or short-term respite or mentoring support to children in the foster system. This method of supporting children in our community allows folks to come together to provided wraparound care for the most vulnerable youths. We are currently holding group and individual informational sessions for anyone interested in being part of this support network.

Please connect with us at

Debbie Alford

— Debbie Alford
Program manager
Trinity Place Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter
Caring for Children – Asheville, NC