Safe Place for Youth’s mission is to inspire, nurture, and empower the resilient human spirit of homeless youth by providing immediate and lasting solutions, one young person at a time. The program prioritizes low barriers for entry, harm-reduction, a trauma-informed approach, and the provision of a safe, supportive environment. 

The Need

Youth homelessness has been on the rise in the US for the past several decades, yet there is a shortage of service providers catering specifically to homeless youth. Most youth become homeless as a result of aging out of the foster care system, being forced out of their home by their parent/guardian, or fleeing to escape abuse. Homeless youth face a number of dangers on the streets, as well as obstacles in accessing services not experienced by adult homeless populations. Their age makes it difficult for them to earn money legally, causing many to exchange sex for food, clothing, and shelter. Homeless youths’ desire to blend in with other youth, combined with their fear of being preyed upon by adult homeless, keeps them from accessing traditional adult homeless services. This creates a need for youth specific services. 

What SPY Does

We work with youth to transition off the streets and into stable housing through three core areas of service: Drop-In Center, Street Outreach, and Case Management. We work with each individual youth to assist them to build resiliency, a stronger sense of self, and take back control over their daily lives, while maintaining awareness and respect for basic human rights. SPY incorporates best practice models that include a harm-reduction and trauma informed approach with low barriers to entry.

Drop-In Center provides a comprehensive range of on-site services broken into three main categories:

  • Survival Needs – hot healthy meals, first-aid kits, hygiene products, clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, bus tokens, Internet and phone access, mail, and ID/birth certificate services.
  • Health and Wellbeing – In partnership with Venice Family Clinic, we operate a weekly onsite medical clinic that offers care for basic wounds and infections as well as referrals. Common Ground provides HIV and Hepatitis C prevention services, testing, and counseling. Harm reduction interventions, health education workshops, yoga, and referrals to dental, housing/shelter, job/educational support and placement services, as well as family reunification are also provided.
  • Mental Health – DAZ Foundation interns are onsite to provide one-on-one counseling as well as psychosocial, educational, and creative arts groups. A Department of Mental Health Navigator is onsite weekly to meet with clients with mental health issues and link them to the appropriate services. Our case managers also help youth identify goals for themselves, and take steps to reach those goals. This often includes linkages to mental health service providers. 

Street Outreach teams engage youth on the street three times a week; building relationships and trust while providing street based case management, survival items, and HIV/STD safety kits. Outreach workers provide youth with linkages to medical assistance including mental health and physical care, showers, lockers, emergency shelter, and SPY services.

Case Management at SPY is youth led, and comes from a harm reduction approach, which means there is no judgment of the youth. Youth can work with our Case Management team on obtaining short-term goals, such as receiving their identification documents so they can enter housing or obtain employment, to longer-term goals including returning to school, entering a drug withdrawal center, or moving into stable housing.