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Youth and Family Services YMCA Celebrates Five Years of My Home Program Helping Homeless Youth

Tonie Hood, Housing Management Supervisor at the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara; Lynn Karlson, Executive Director at Youth and Family Services YMCA; Autumn Sanders, My Home resident; and Avanti Alias, My Home resident. Click to view larger
Tonie Hood, Housing Management Supervisor at the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara; Lynn Karlson, Executive Director at Youth and Family Services YMCA; Autumn Sanders, My Home resident; and Avanti Alias, My Home resident. (Youth and Family Services YMCA photo)

The Youth and Family Services YMCA held a five-year anniversary celebration of its My Home program April 5 at Artisan Court. My Home provides homeless youth ages 18-24 transitional housing and the tools needed to build independent lives.

“This five years has taken a lot of people, a lot of resources and a lot of caring,” Youth and Family Services YMCA Executive Director Lynn Karlson told the audience, describing all involved as “visionary.” 

Working with the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara as the housing provider, My Home aims to house those young people facing homelessness and ensure that they receive the support needed to mature into self-sufficient adults through their many services including on-site case management, education advocacy and preparation, work training, wellness referrals and counseling.

Karlson said that when Youth and Family Services YMCA first started the My Home program, it was one of the only housing options for youth transitioning out of the foster system, many of whom became homeless on their 18th birthday because of a law ending benefits at 18.

California has since passed legislation that allows foster youth to receive benefits until they are 21, but this hasn’t slowed work for My Home. With help from Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara, they have now expanded their services to include homeless youth who were never in foster care.

Currently, 10 youth are in the program, eight of whom reside at Artisan Court. More are on a waiting list.

Autumn Sanders, 21, is one of the youth residents. She has been supported by the My Home program for about a year, which has provided her the stability and independence needed to continue her education and work.

“Because of My Home, I have a second chance,” Sanders told the crowd. 

Research tells us that 65 percent of young people leaving foster care do not have a place to live and 40 percent will be on public assistance or incarcerated within four years. Young people coping with mental illness without family support are also much more likely to end up on the streets.  

My Home is the result of collaboration among Youth and Family Services YMCA, the Housing  Authority of the City of Santa Barbara and County of Santa Barbara Child Welfare Services. It is funded largely through generous contributions from local foundations and individuals as well as City Human Services funding.

The Assistance League of Santa Barbara’s Fostering Friends program helps provide My Home residents with household essentials to get started upon move in.

Amy Bernstein is a publicist representing Youth and Family Services YMCA.

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