Kieran is a Street Outreach Specialist helping youth facing homelessness find safety, stability and support.
CEDARS: What was it like when you were a kid?
Kieran: I remember going on “hikes” with my grandma’s dog in the woods behind her barn and using tree branches to build forts. I also remember sitting on my grandma’s back patio in the summertime and reading books while she made iced tea for us. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and I very much treasure those relationships.
CEDARS: How long have you worked at CEDARS?
Kieran: I started working at CEDARS immediately after graduating from the University of Nebraska Lincoln in December 2017.
CEDARS: What is your current role at CEDARS?
Kieran: I am a member of the Street Outreach Team. We operate the Youth Opportunity Center (YOC) downtown six days a week where we offer youth a hot meal, access to laundry and hygiene products, free WiFi to work on homework and job applications and a safe environment. We also participate in numerous outreach opportunities in the schools, community centers and in various neighborhoods. I started out in a different role at CEDARS and I am grateful for the opportunities I had while in that position. I then moved to the Street Outreach and Bridges team because I discovered that I feel most fulfilled working in multiple areas of the community and helping youth meet their needs.
CEDARS: What is your typical day like?
Kieran: One of the reasons I love my job is that no day looks the same! We are always at the YOC for open hours, but we also spend time doing outreach at local schools, shelters, and the mall just to name a few! I care about our community and want to do my part in making it the best it can be for everyone who calls it home.
CEDARS: What is something you have learned while serving youth at CEDARS?
Kieran: I’ve learned that progress is not linear and growth looks different for each person. A ‘one size fits all’ approach disadvantages both staff and youth.
CEDARS: How do your values play a role in your work?
Kieran: I feel that this type of work would be nearly impossible without displaying respect and compassion toward the youth and families we meet. I am very fortunate to be surrounded by team members who exemplify those values on a daily basis and hold me accountable to do the same.
CEDARS: What is your favorite part about your job?
Kieran: I really like cooking meals for youth at the YOC as well as handing out snacks at the LPS Food Market. What can I say, I love food. The Street Outreach and Bridges Team emphasizes having fun on a daily basis at the YOC, whether it’s playing a game of UNO with clients or laughing with each other at the end of a long day. When we attend community events, we make sure to bring our own games and participate in playing alongside the youth we meet.
CEDARS: What do you like to do when you’re not at work? How do you recharge?
Kieran: I like to go to the gym, take my dog on walks, cook a nice meal, spend time with friends and take in the arts and music scene downtown. There are also times when I go home and play the Settlers of Catan app for an hour or two. Self-care is all about balance.
CEDARS: Is there one particular client that you feel was significantly impacted at CEDARS? If so, what was their story?
Kieran: It’s really hard to select just one client, so I would say that it’s very impactful anytime a youth begins to realize their own resilience. Youth are more resilient than we--and sometimes they--understand and they often just need an invested adult who is willing to walk alongside them as they navigate the challenges they encounter in their life.
CEDARS: What is the most important thing that we should know about youth homelessness?
Kieran: There are a lot of misguided thoughts about what causes an individual to become homeless. It’s important that we emphasize collective action in our community and remember to take care of our neighbors despite our personal beliefs about their circumstances.