A month after seeking public help to fill a funding gap to keep Community Youth Services (CYS) young adult shelter open through the summer, the 46-year-old non-profit announced they have received news of funding from the State of Washington’s Office of Homeless Youth, assuring no further threat of closure in the future. 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. AGoFund me campaign successfully raised over $50,000 needed to keep the shelter open through the summer. “This award, along with Thurston County and Community Investment Partnership dollars, solidifies the year round access to the shelter for young adults,” said Scott Hanauer, Community Youth Services Chief Executive Officer. “The shelter relies on grants and private donations to operate. The current grant cycle left a gap of funding between June and September. This award from the Office of Homeless Youth will provide the funding to cover that gap and make the program whole, as long as we are able to maintain the levels of funding from other grants and donors.”
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. 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.
The CYS young adult shelter is the only overnight facility for homeless 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 fewer 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 daytime 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.
“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”.