Get a look at the new youth center

Open house will let 7,000-square-foot space showcase the variety of services it offers area’s at-risk young people

ahobbs@theolympian.comMarch 28, 2014 

To celebrate an expansion in homeless outreach, the nonprofit Community Youth Services will host a public open house for its newest building in downtown Olympia.

The Brighter Futures Youth Center houses four programs that get at-risk youth off the streets and onto a more positive path. Purchased and remodeled for $1.2 million, the facility opened about a month ago in a building at 520 Pear Street NE. The public is invited to take a free tour from 4-5:30 p.m. Friday.

In addition to an overnight shelter with up to 10 beds, the center is home to Rosie’s Place, where youth can drop in during the daytime for meals, clothing, showers, laundry and hygiene items. Counseling services are available, and staff members connect youth with jobs and housing. On the ground floor is GRAVITY High School, where dropouts can earn a GED.

One new resource is Cindy’s Closet, a name transferred from what began as a real closet in the original Rosie’s Place largely operated by CYS board member and volunteer Cindy Berger. It is now an outlet for donated clothes for young people in need.

The new Cindy’s Closet is the result of a District Community Grant from Rotary Club of Olympia that totals $5,000. The club also purchased all the items, painted, assembled all the shelving and display materials, and got the washer and dryer delivered and set up.

“The value of their efforts probably doubled what we could have done had they just given us money,” said Keylee Marineau, Rosie’s Place outreach director, in a news release.

At 7,000 square feet, the new Olympia facility also focuses on downtown “street kids,” said Community Youth Services CEO Charles Shelan, noting that there is room to grow. Rosie’s House serves 400 to 500 clients a year, and most range from 18-24 years old. Teenagers are served at a separate facility called the Haven House.

At the root of homelessness is childhood trauma that may include poverty, abuse and neglect. The point where many lives spiral out of control, Shelan said, is when youth turn to drugs like heroin or methamphetamine.

“There are so many temptations for vulnerable, nave young people,” Shelan said. “People habituate really quickly to the environment they’re thrown into.”

Since 1979, Shelan has seen a shift in the circumstances of youth who need services. Today, there are more runaways, along with a more visible street culture. The problems are worse today, he said, but there are also more resources available. One solution is to engage youth in healthy social environments such as school and employment. A steady job gives youth more discipline and something constructive to do with their time, Shelan said.

Homeless people in the 16-24 age bracket are considered “transition-age youth” who risk victimization in general emergency shelters. According to the 2013 Thurston County Homeless Census Report, this age group represented about 100 out of 686 total homeless individuals who were counted. The census also counted 157 homeless children age 17 and under, with seven of those children living unaccompanied by an adult. In 2013, the total number of homeless students in Thurston County’s eight school districts was reported at 1,123 – an increase of 72 percent since 2006.

With 19 total programs that serve nearly 3,000 people a year, the non-profit Community Youth Services relies on local, state and federal grants to serve at-risk youth. The main office is located at 711 State Avenue NE.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869

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