The first center for young adults ages 18 to 24 who are experiencing homelessness has opened at 701 E. Haley St. in Santa Barbara.
The Haley Street Navigation Center is designed for transitional-age clients who are either experiencing homelessness or need help attaining basic needs such as food and clothing.
Such a resource is necessary in the community because many services that were previously offered to youths are no longer available once a client turns 18, according to Amy Tovias, director of operations for Youth & Family Services at the YMCA Channel Islands.
Tovias described the center as a “jumping off point” for people in a transitional age, though the site also offers ongoing support.
“The transition between being a youth and being a young adult is a very extremely challenging time,” Tovias said. “Our hope is that youth that start coming to us when they are 17 or 18, can then receive the basic needs there while we work on establishing housing opportunities out in the community.”
The center will have case managers on site who will work with the clients to provide the resources they need, whether it’s employment, education, financial resources, or mental health counseling.
In addition to the counseling resources, the center also offers amenities to meet the basic needs of clients such as a kitchen, computers with Internet access, grab-and-go meals, a washer and a dryer, a shower, personal storage, clothes and shoes, all of which are available to clients for free.
Tovias said there hasn’t been a place for such clients to shower since 18- to 24-year-olds were not allowed to shower at centers that were reserved for minors.
The center offers a “client-led” approach, meaning that the center will offer resources based on what the client asks for. Tovias said the approach helps build trust.
“A lot of times, people think or assume that they know what is best for someone else,” Tovias said. “And in reality, we don’t know what it is that they need or what it is that they have and the experiences that they’ve been through.”
City Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez, who represents District 1 of Santa Barbara, said the center is important because the cost of after-school programs in Santa Barbara makes resources inaccessible to many youths in the city. The center offers free services and guidance.
“The YMCA Youth Center is very promising in the Eastside, which is a neighborhood that has a great need when it comes to our youth,” Gutierrez told Noozhawk. “The best part of it is that it’s in our own backyard, making it more accessible for those who need the services and the support.”