We Want to be Family

The Relatives

For 48 years, a nonprofit in Charlotte, N.C., called The Relatives has worked to keep children and youth safe, families together, and prepare youth and young adults to be healthy, productive, engaged members of the community. A Duke Endowment collaborator since 2017, The Relatives is known as a trusted source of hope, acceptance and empowerment.

In May of 2022, the partnership between the Endowment and The Relatives produced the On Ramp Resource Center, a walk-in day center that offers basic needs (food, clothes, supplies, laundry, and showers) to young adults alongside critical case management to help move them from homelessness to housing, and to economic stability through education and job training. “On Ramp was born because kids were aging out of foster care and they weren’t equipped to become adults,” says Executive Director Trish Hobson, as she describes keen challenges facing youth transitioning from foster care.

Data collected for the Fostering Youth Transitions 2023 report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation show North Carolina foster youth participation in transition programs such as life-skills training, mentoring and housing assistance is generally lower than national averages.

Rayline, a young On Ramp Resource Center participant, is beating the statistics. She is employed full-time, and stays in close contact with staff at The Relatives for guidance and support. She says, “It feels amazing. People told me I was going to be 16 and pregnant, never going to graduate from high school, never have my own place. Now, I have graduated from high school, got my own place, and am working on getting a car. Yes, I am proud of myself.”

When positive change for young adults begins to happen, “you can feel it inside because they begin to trust you,” says Program Manager Desmond Rushing. He emphasizes the critical role of building relationships and creating authentic connections. Using that patient, long-term approach, 1,147 youth were served by The Relatives in the past year. Of those youth served, 92 percent did not return to homelessness, 61 percent gained sustained employment, and 99 percent said they felt safe while the crises that brought them to The Relatives were addressed.

“We are named The Relatives because we want to be family to the kids that don’t have it. That means loving you for exactly who you are.”

Trish Hobson, Executive Director

The Relatives Trish

According to The Relatives, 45,000 youths in the Charlotte region are disconnected from their families. The expanded On Ramp program is on track to serve 9,000 of them in the next three years, with many more to come.

The On Ramp Resource Center at The Relatives is an example of how The Duke Endowment, and grantees within the Child & Family Well-Being program area, continue to serve the needs of children, youth, and their families through innovative strategies, effective programs and proven practices.

“I hope that (Duke Endowment founder) Mr. (James B.) Duke would be saddened that we still have to do this work, but be honored that we are continuing his vision to help kids who don’t have the family support they need by being the family they can’t have,” says Hobson.

The Relatives Rayline