This time of year, we love to get all gushy and give-y, and with the success of last year's donation drive benefiting the YWCA, we were thrilled to have to opportunity to bring back Love Where You Give. This year, all donations are going to the Volunteers of America's Homeless Youth Resource Center, which serves 15-22 year old homeless and at-risk in our city. It's estimated that there are approximately 1,000 displaced youth between the ages of 15-22 in SLC alone, and the HYC serves between 500-600 individual youth per year. The organization provides basic needs like food, clothing, hygiene items, laundry, and showers to a few less-fortunate folks (they are also in the works to open a new shelter with 30-bed capacity and a 24/7 facility, and though not currently open on weekends, their headquarters--located at 655 South State Street--will be open for breakfast on Saturdays from 8:30am - 12:30pm starting spring of 2016).
The volunteers of HYRC work to improve the long-term outlooks for these teens and young adults in need by working with them to set goals and empowering them to work towards them. They strive to create a place where ALL youth feel accepted, safe, a part of the community--one where they are able to make strides toward a better future for themselves--and we think that cause is pretty damn commendable. It goes without saying, but hell, we're going to say it anyway: these locals are truly making a huge impact on the future of our city of salt, and for that, we're giving them all the hugs, snaps, and hand shakes we can muster. We recently chatted with HYRC's Program Manager, Cat Rogers, and Director of Community Engagement, Brian Hutchinson, on the ins and outs of building brighter futures.
We know you're doing something seriously good down there at the HYRC, but break down for us the services you offer to kids and young adults in need of a hand. Our clients come to us in turmoil, whether it be due to addiction, mental illness, abuse, years of generational patterns or spiraling events. Our continuum of care guides clients along the path to self-sufficiency. Starting with outreach, then stabilization, to housing, on to counseling and empowerment. We don’t want to just hand out food, we want to change their whole outlook and path. Here, youth can receive basic needs: bags of food, clothing, meals, hygienic items, basic need items, backpacks, tents, tarps, sleeping bags, hand warmers and books, as well as referrals for medical and counseling help. We can also assist with housing options and employment assistance, like interview preparedness, applications, and more.
When and how often can youth in need come to the center for help? Youth can come to the center any time we’re open. We have many groups in the afternoon that youth can participate in, or outreach can meet them somewhere. Monday-Friday from 9:15am-1:00pm we're open for basic needs, 9:15-10:00 is when we serve breakfast, 1:00-1:30 is when we serve lunch, and we serve dinner from 4:00-4:30 every weekday except Wednesday. But with the new 24/7 center, we will be able to take in youth at any time of day or night.
Because your services are free to youth (amazing), what is needed to financially support this operation, and where does the funding come from? We have 10 full time staff: four Youth Advocates/Outreach Workers, one Employment Advocate, two Case Managers, one Center Coordinator, one Faith Based Engagement Coordinator, and myself, the Program Manager. We also have one full time AmeriCorps Case Aid and one AmeriCorps VISTA. We use volunteers consistently, and often have at least 25 volunteers coming through the center weekly. We get funding from private donors, corporations, and foundations. We also receive some state and county funding as well. We are also still raising money to support the new, 24/7 shelter that will be located on 900 South and 400 West.
Speaking of the new facility, can we get the lowdown on that new addition? What new services will be available at the HYRC shelter? The new HYRC will be 20,000 sq. ft. of space and will allow for 30 beds for emergency overnight shelter. Through our Street Outreach program, we’re able to gain the trust of these youth and offer much-needed services at the new center. At first, individuals may come to the HYRC for a shower, to do laundry or get some food. But once trust is built, we’re able to serve them in more meaningful ways. Each year, we expect to serve about 800 teens through the new facility. We’ll be able to offer emergency shelter beds and 24/7 assistance. There will be spaces dedicated to education assistance, job training, counseling and volunteer-run groups.
How can we as a community better support the youth that come to the HYRC? The community can support the youth by donating items, raising money, and volunteering at the center. The HYRC uses volunteers in many different capacities from sorting donations, cooking meals, leading weekly activities, working with our youth one-on-one, participating in outreach, and others. We can accommodate individuals as well as groups. But they can also help in different ways: if they are employers and have job openings they can hire our youth for, if they have a specific skill set they want to teach our youth, if they are eye doctor that wants to provide free eye exams--there really is no limit to what different people in the community can do. We just need to be creative!
Are there any donations in particular that are needed most right now? The top donations we need right now are financial contributions (checks can be made to the Homeless Youth Resource Center), socks, knit gloves, men’s and women’s underwear (all sizes), body warmers (including hand and toe), thermal sets (all sizes), and clothing of all kind, including warm coats and shoes.
*As part of this interview, we also had the opportunity to speak with one of the youth about the experience they had at the center, and the stellar impact it has had on their life.
What has the center done for you? The center has always been there, so that I never have had to have a doubt or worry of where my next coat or blanket or meal is going to come from.
How has your life changed? My life has changed dramatically. It’s so that I don’t have to have worries any more. The Volunteers of America gave me structure and a plan, a place where I can sit down and quietly think to myself. I’m a lot more knowledgeable on how to handle life.
How have your goals changed? My goals are more thorough, detailed and realistic and, most importantly, I have the support to actually follow through on them.
What would you tell other youth in situations where they have some of these same issues? I would tell them to keep going, keep their chin up, always remember to never give up--that there are people and resources like the HYRC that are there to help.
How can the community better support this worthy cause to help youth? Simple. Support in anything that they do. Support of all kinds. Get involved. Become aware.
*Donations for the Love Where You Give campaign can be dropped off until December 14th at one of our 6 locations: Vive Juicery, Vive Juicery Downtown, Mod a-go-go, FINCA, The Stockist, Crude Oil or the CHC Headquarters. View a map of all locations here. For details or volunteering info, click here or email: [email protected]