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.
Safe Place for Youth (S.P.Y.) provides three core areas of service provision: 1) Street Outreach 2) Drop-In Center 3) Case Management. Street Outreach teams engage youth on the street three times a week, building relationships while providing basic survival items including food packs, hygiene products, clean socks, sunscreen, first aid, and condoms. Outreach workers assist youth with referrals to medical care, showers, lockers, shelter, and S.P.Y. services. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, staff and volunteers operate the youth Drop-In Center, providing food, clothing, hygiene products, Internet access, mail, and phone services, as well as mental health and health and wellbeing programs. Case management is offered to youth at the Drop-In Center and during Street Outreach. Our case management is harm reduction-based, individualized care and assistance to meet youth’s self- identified needs, connecting youth to community services and providing intensive support and follow-up while valuing the youths’ strengths and resiliency.
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 system, being forced out of their home by their parent/guardian, or fleeing their home to escape abuse. Life on the street is cruel and difficult. Their belongings are routinely stolen, gangs and the adult homeless prey on them, and many are forced to engage in survival sex, prostitution, or survival crimes. Unable to return home and without any kind of support system, they are left with few options.
As a resident of Venice with teenage children, Alison Hurst was extremely concerned for the homeless youth she saw and wanted to do something to help. In 2006, Alison joined a national organization called “StandUp for Kids” as a volunteer Street Outreach Counselor. She eventually became Executive Director of the Los Angeles program, growing to 4 nights a week of outreach and 2 nights per week at a Drop-In Center with a cadre of dedicated donors and volunteers. In August of 2011, the StandUp for Kids national board informed Alison that the funds raised for the LA youth had been spent elsewhere. The group decided to split from the national organization to focus their efforts more locally, re-form as “Safe Place for Youth” (S.P.Y.) and join as a project of Community Partners in December of 2011.
In just three years, the program has grown from being all volunteers to a full-time staff of five!