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PHOTO COURTESY OF YOUTH TOWERS

 

Lifting up Birmingham’s homeless population

 

Emma Owen
Blazer News Editor
emmacowen@uab.edu

 

Founded by Alice Westery, Youth Towers is a nonprofit organization in Birmingham that aims to assist the homeless youth and youth that are at risk for homelessness in the city.

 

Alice Westery, Executive Director and founder of Youth Towers, said she discovered the need for her organization working as an Independent Living Coordinator for the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources.

 

“The most rewarding part of (Youth Towers) is seeing a young person have hope that they now have a support system,” Westery said. “They are able to get a hand up instead of a handout. They’re able to see no matter where they come from, no matter what their lifestyle, the origin of it is, it does not have to be their destiny or their fate.”

 

Westery said Youth Towers helps with a variety of needs, from assisting with physical needs such as toiletries or bus passes, to providing job interview training and more.

 

“Almost every day there is a situation where I am reminded of the reason why I do this,” Westery said. “Whether it’s a young person saying, ‘I can see some light at the end of this tunnel,’ or whether it’s someone that gets their light bill turned on or their lights connected to have electricity.”

 

Westery said she aims to help individuals discover their full potential and get back on their feet. “(Youth Towers) was created to end homelessness for young people between the ages of 19 to 26 and younger than 19 with parental consent,” Westery said. “The population that we serve are young people who have either aged out of foster care (or have) come out of non-supportive environments without the help and guidance and the hope that they need in order to have a positive and productive life.”

 

Westery said that Youth Towers is always accepting volunteers who can bring all kinds of special skills to the table, from math skills and individuals with good interview experience, to volunteers who are interested in holding fundraisers.

 

“The (volunteers) would be enlightened in a way they never thought possible, by allowing themselves to actually have empathy and to have genuine care about their fellow man,” Westery said. “Whether it’s from a bar of soap or doing a drive for bus passes.”

 

Emily DeMars, volunteer at Youth Towers said she chose to put her skills to use because she has a passion for Social Work.

 

“I want to work with that population,” DeMars said. “I want to work with people around my same age, especially working with them in Birmingham since they’re so close to me. I liked that (Westery) was connecting them to other programs and not just alleviating that one need but wants to alleviate other issues in their life.”

 

DeMars said she has chosen to give back by using her voice to bring a greater awareness to the organization.

 

“My initial desire was to help with the awareness side of the nonprofit,” DeMars said.

 

DeMars said whether volunteers are heading out to the field offices to gather hygiene products or nonperishable foods for a client, assisting a client with a resume or working with fundraising, Westery pushes them to find their niche as a volunteer.

 

“It’s really eye-opening to see the hurt and poverty and brokenness that is around us in Birmingham,” DeMars said. “It’s so easy to get in our UAB bubble and see everything good right here on campus but you go six blocks down the road and (Westery) is sitting here one-on-one helping people that didn’t eat yesterday or need a bottle of water or can’t get a bus pass.”

 

About - Student Media

UAB Student Media is the home of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s student-run media outlets. They include Kaleidoscope , an award-winning weekly newspaper; BlazeRadio, our 24-hour online radio station live on the TuneIn app; Aura, a much-heralded literary arts magazine; and UABTV, original, web-based video programming. UAB students operate all media. The articles, posts, newscasts and opinions are solely those of its student writers, producers, editors, deejays, etc. and do not reflect that of the university, its administrators or the Student Media advisors.

 

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