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Immerse Arkansas has received two grants totaling $1.2 million to further its work with Pulaski County young people in crisis, the organization announced Thursday.

The federal grants, received through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Children and Families division, pick up where a similar grant left off, executive director Eric Gilmore said. A previous five-year award expired in September.

"[This] funds a significant portion of our transitional living for program for youth," Gilmore said.

The grants will help pay for homes for young people who are transitioning out of foster care, and for caseworkers who teach life skills and "help [clients] identify their goals, and kind of link arms with them, one by one," he said.

Immerse Arkansas was founded in 2010, when it served eight young people. So far this year, it has helped 91, Gilmore said.

"Immerse Arkansas's work helping central Arkansans aging out of the foster care system has a real impact on our community," U.S. Rep. French Hill, who wrote a letter of support for the grant application, said in an emailed statement.

Hill, a Republican from Little Rock, was moved to help in part by his experience being shadowed in Washington, D.C., by Immerse Arkansas' leadership board President Shannon Boney, who told him about having 40 foster-care placements in 11 years.

In addition to helping young people who are aging out of foster care, the group also assists runaways and the homeless, foster and adoptive families and young victims of human trafficking.

Gilmore said the grant will help develop more specialized programs that serve different constituencies, such as teens who are pregnant or are parents.

Looking forward, he wants to figure out what kinds of young people "continue to fall through the cracks," Gilmore said. "We're always looking at how do we keep meeting the needs of the youth that we're serving."

Gilmore said he hopes the organization will someday be able to provide an emergency shelter that could serve young people who are in need of immediate assistance, such as those who have been kicked out of a home by a parent.

"They need a place to go that night; it's a really tough need to meet well," he said.

In September, an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article profiled Stefan Specht, who aged out of foster care and struggled until finding assistance at Immerse Arkansas.

"Over time, you realize that they really do care about you," he told a reporter.

Metro on 10/12/2018

Print Headline: Pulaski County agency helping young people receives 2 grants for $1.2M

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