OLYMPIA — Community Youth Services (CYS) is seeking public help to fill a funding gap that will keep their young adult shelter open through the summer. CYS has operated a young adult shelter in downtown Olympia since 2013 to provide overnight refuge to some of Thurston County’s most vulnerable young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. Although it is CYS’ hope to keep the young adult shelter open throughout the year, Community Youth Services is looking at temporarily closing its young adult shelter at 520 Pear St. on June 24. Closing CYS’ young adult shelter will leave no overnight shelter in the downtown area for the city’s homeless young people for close to 3 months.
The organization began operating the shelter when the need for a young adult shelter became apparent by the downtown homeless population and lack of shelter for this vulnerable age group. “While there are a handful of grants available for shelter services, the competition amongst the local shelters has spread the money thin to where it is simply not enough to keep the shelter open year round,” said Scott Hanauer, Community Youth Services Chief Executive Officer.
The facility has been sheltering young people at full capacity every night for months. Hanauer states that “it is important to note that 80% of the young people who access our young adult shelter are from this local region”. In the month of May, the Young Adult Shelter saw a 28% increase of young people compared to May of 2015. The next three months are projected to slightly increase, “which is expected with the numbers we are already seeing and knowing the summer months are some of the busiest at the shelter,” Hanauer added.
Once the CYS young adult shelter closes, the only overnight facility for homeless youth, there will be no dedicated shelter facility for young adults ages 18-24 in Thurston County. Research has shown that this age group does not access mass adult shelters due to young adults being victimized by older adults and increased exposure to drugs and criminal behavior and of which are already full.
However, being on the streets with no safe place to be at night is even more dangerous. “Just one night with no safe place to be increases the likelihood of mental health problems, substance abuse, and victimization by older adults. Being on the streets also means young people are more likely to stop going to school or to work or to stay involved in other support services” says Hanauer, “We know by keeping the shelter open, we are helping to keep downtown Olympia safe with less people sleeping in front of businesses, less open drug use and less public violence.”
The Charles Shelan Brighter Futures Youth Center, which is where the young adult shelter is located, also includes Rosie’s Place, a day time drop in center for the homeless youth that contains a clothing bank, hygiene supplies and a dining area for lunch, Monday through Friday. There is also case management available to help keep these youth off the streets by helping them secure housing, find a job, get an education or get other help (medical, dental, mental health, etc.). Having the Young Adult Shelter provides a link to the homeless youth to these services and improves the lives of those young people experiencing homelessness.
Community Youth Services is aware that closing the shelter could mean more homeless will camp outdoors in the parks and streets.
CYS staff will be talking with the homeless youth at the shelter about finding other places to go besides outdoor public spaces.
Hanauer said it is “hard to say” what the impact of the closure would have on community. “We have found that most young people who utilize CYS’ young adult shelter access other CYS and community services including mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, housing, education, independent living skills, and family reconciliation services. Our young adult shelter is often the starting point or the “right door” for young people to begin a better future”.
In order to keep this important shelter open, the CYS Board is seeking donations to sustain essential services until other funding sources become available. The 46 year old agency has set up a gofundme campaign and is looking to raise $50,000 to help keep the shelter open during these busy summer months. Information on this campaign can be found on the CYS website:
www.communityyouthservices.org or by calling the Development Director, Lynsi Polanco at 360-918-7822.
The direct link for donations is: gofundme.com/29tpehsu