November is National Runaway Prevention Month and California Runaway and Homeless Youth Prevention Month, an annual awareness and prevention campaign for runaway and homeless youth issues. The YMCA of San Diego County has more than 48 years’ experience serving this population, and this year, we’re sharing a series of blog posts that explore the issue in depth. Read our first two posts here and here.
While a homeless experience varies from person to person, we know that certain circumstances like family conflict, lack of education, and poverty make youth more likely to end up on the street. The YMCA of San Diego County focuses on combating these root causes to change the trajectory of homeless youth and set them on a path to becoming successful members of our community. Our housing programs build independent living skills with a focus on goal attainment and emotional wellness to lead to long-term stability and end reliance on public support systems.
We offer a continuum of services from prevention to meeting basic needs to transitional housing for San Diego’s youth and young adults:
- Preventing a homeless experience is the first goal, and the YMCA’s history of strengthening families in crisis puts us at the forefront of preventing runaway behavior among youth since the majority of homeless youth report that family conflict and dysfunction led to their homeless experience. The YMCA understands that family conflict is serious, yet resolvable in certain circumstances, so we invest in programs that strengthen family wellbeing to prevent a youth from becoming homeless. Since its inception in 1970, the YMCA Youth & Family Services branch has helped families resolve conflict and taught youth the value of maintaining strong, healthy support networks. That philosophy continues today as we infuse innovative approaches such as Family Finding and HOST home housing models into our programs to ensure youth maintain healthy relationships and develop new connections they can rely on in times of crisis. Our modern take on transitional housing helps young people experience stability, increase well-being and, avoid the possibility of housing disruptions.
- For youth who are already on the street, YMCA Street Outreach Program provides on-foot outreach and crisis assessment for youth seeking safety in North County San Diego. The program offers transportation to shelter and works with youth to access supportive services to help them get off the street and find safe shelter. Many youth are experiencing homelessness for the first time, so the program seeks to provide a sense of safety and stability during a traumatic time when youth are vulnerable to the numerous risks of street life. In the last fiscal year, the program offered food, hygiene kits, clothing and other necessities and services to alleviate the homeless experience of more than 150 youth, ages 12-25.
- YMCA TAY Drop In Center is the next level of engagement for homeless youth, many of whom came from the YMCA Street Outreach Program, who wish to engage in more intensive work to return to stability. The open-access resource centers in Oceanside and Escondido offer youth, ages 14-25, opportunities for one-on-one coaching to develop a life stability plan, access to a computer, connections to community resources, and workshops to increase their ability to live independently. TAY Academy also welcomes youth in the YMCA Our Safe Place program, which provides a welcoming and supportive environment for LGBTQ youth, ages 12-21, and their families. In the last fiscal year, TAY Academy and Our Safe Place served more than 600 youth.
- When youth know they can sleep safely at night, they are better able to set and achieve goals for long-term self-sufficiency. The YMCA provides more than 80 beds in YMCA Transitional Housing programs that provide safe shelter for transition age youth, ages 18-24, who meet various eligibility criteria throughout the County. Residents in YMCA housing programs live in a furnished apartment with subsidized rent and on-site supervision. While in residence they participate in intensive individualized case management, employment/education assistance, financial development and personal budgeting education, independent living skills workshops, access to therapy, and scaled support after they leave the program for continued well-being. In the last fiscal year, we provided housing to more than 260 youth throughout San Diego County.