Support Homeless Youth in New York

by Safe Horizon
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Support Homeless Youth in New York
Support Homeless Youth in New York
Support Homeless Youth in New York
Support Homeless Youth in New York
Support Homeless Youth in New York
Support Homeless Youth in New York
Support Homeless Youth in New York
Support Homeless Youth in New York
Support Homeless Youth in New York
Support Homeless Youth in New York
Support Homeless Youth in New York

Safe Horizon plays a major role in New York City's crisis response system. As the official operator of New York City's 311 hotlines for Domestic Violence, Rape and Sexual Assault, and Crime Victims, we field nearly 100,000 calls per year from New Yorkers in crisis. In total, we serve over 250,000 people per year, and maintain a physical presence within New York City's human services infrastructure, including in all NYPD precincts, all New York City Criminal and Family Courts, in nine domestic violence and homeless youth shelters, and more. 

Safe Horizon's Streetwork Project operates two drop-in centers in Manhattan that provide daytime services, a mobile community outreach unit, and a crisis shelter that serves young people up to age 20. Around mid-March, we were forced to cut the number of beds in our youth crisis shelter in half in order to keep clients safely distanced, though our drop-in centers remain open for services like showers, laundry, meals, to-go food, and other basic needs.

Many youth providers in New York City are finding themselves at full capacity or are not able to accept any new clients for services. Fortunately, Streetwork Project has been there to accept client overflow from other providers that are over capacity or temporarily shut down due to the coronavirus.

“If a young person needs a shower, we’re not going to deny them that, of course,” Villarin said. “We refuse to not provide the service. We just have to do it differently.”

Though Safe Horizon has experienced unprecedented barriers when it comes to meeting clients where they are during these difficult times, we are encouraged by the expertise, creativity, and resilience of the survivors and staff that we are so privileged to work with.

We are so grateful for your support and hope you continue to help us provide essential services to homeless young people during this incredibly challenging time.

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On October 10th, we celebrated the 7th Annual Project Streetwork Fashion Show with PVH. Each year, Project Streetwork offers young people an opportunity to participate in design apprenticeships with PVH designers, culminating in an incredible fashion show where youth model their own designs. This year’s event, held at PVH’s Calvin Klein Lookspace in the heart of the Garment District, was the biggest and boldest yet.

PVH provided sewing machines, fabric and art supplies, and guided the first-time designers from inspiration boards to execution. On the runway, at first the designer-models walked cautiously, with downcast eyes. After a few steps, they looked up, to applause and cheers. And after a few more, they smiled.

For Joean Villarin, Director of the Streetwork Uptown Drop-In Center, Project Streetwork is a positive shared experience for clients and staff. “It’s nice to be in an environment where the focus isn’t on problems, or on fixing something,” she said. “It’s on creating something.

Daniel Armosilla, a designer and PVH Project Streetwork mentor, said, “When we say, ‘This is a great idea, here are the tools and supplies, let’s band together and help you realize this,’ all that’s happened to them washes away. They feel peace and elation — surprised by what they’re capable of.

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Did you know that Streetwork Project turned 35 years old this year?

It was launched in 1984 as an outreach program in Times Square to serve the needs of a growing number of homeless youth. In the years since, we have achieved so much:

  • We were among the first youth-serving programs to formally adopt a harm-reduction approach during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
  • We were the first to launch a youth-specific syringe exchange program on the East Coast.
  • Together with many partners, we were the first to launch a statewide coalition, the Coalition for Homeless Youth, to mobilize resources and share best practices around engaging and supporting homeless youth.

In this landmark year, youth at Streetwork learned how to identify what's most important to them and how to develop achievable plans with support from their case managers. 

Based on their life circumstances and personal goals, youth sought to achieve and successfully accomplished the following outcomes:

  • Housing: 113 youth moved into their very own transitional or supporting housing apartments.
  • Hunger and Nutrition: 47,825 meals were served, while 108 youth enrolled in SNAP benefits.
  • Healthcare: 345 youth addressed traumatic stress through mental health services. Additionally, 115 youth enrolled in Medicaid for inreased access to healthcare.
  • Financial Empowerment: 15 youth increased their financial resources through public assistance and supplemental security income (SSI).

We're not only reaching a greater number of young people; we're also evolving to better meet their needs. Whether it's through our new economic empowerment program, arts-based creative expression projects, or opportunities for young people to act as peer mentors to support healthy choices, Streetwork is always changing, learning, and celebrating.

By building a community where youth are leaders and organizers, engaging them in activities that allow them to explore their identities, and being seen and heard by their case managers, homeless youth find more than a safe place at Streetwork - they find their full potential.

From all the young people, staff, and volunteers at Streetwork, thank you for your commitment to ending youth homelessness in New York City

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For all the incredible creativity, resilience, and drive they bring to their lives and goals each day, homeless and street-involved young people can be highly vulnerable to trauma, sexual exploitation, negative health outcomes, and violence. On top of these experiences, many young people are re-traumatized by systems of policing, foster care, immigration, healthcare, and even education, when such public systems don’t center survivors or understand trauma.

The result of this is a systems gap in which young people cannot access the supports they need within programs designed for and by themselves. Over the last several years, Streetwork – Safe Horizon’s continuum of youth services – has made a strategic long term commitment to change this. We have taken on this challenge by focusing on mental health as the key to youth outcomes.

Through a federally-funded group trauma project, a licensed satellite clinic, and a unique approach to trust and relationships in every interaction, we are already seeing incredible results based on a preliminary data set:

  • Over 900 young people benefitted from some level of mental health intervention – and nearly 200 of them engaged in more intensive group or individual evidence-based therapies
  • Across the board, young people’s trauma-related risk behaviors decreased including alcohol/marijuana use, serious depression or anxiety, trouble controlling violent behavior, or suicidality.
  • Moreover, we have observed an increase in young people attaining housing and employment outcomes, including a 40% increase in the number of young people who are housed and a 25% increase in the number of young people who are employed

The Streetwork model has exciting promise for young people in New York City and beyond. Moving forward, we’re going to do even more of this work, learning from youth and shifting systems towards their needs and experience. 

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Keeping up with what seems like countless demands on our time - work, family, childcare, social engagements, and more - can feel challenging, and sometimes even impossible to manage. Though many of us are aware of how crucial self care is in maintaining physical and emotional wellbeing, it can sometimes fall low on our long lists of competing priorities.

Self care can fall even lower on a long list of priorities for homeless young people. Daunting tasks like figuring out where to sleep that night or securing their next meal may push self care out of the picture entirely for some young people. At Streetwork Project, we aim to convey to young people that self care is important and that they're worthy of it, and find strategies to help them identify what self care looks like in their own lives and how to make it manageable.

Many Streetwork Project clients choose to exercise self care by exploring personal style. This is particularly true for young people exploring gender identity and expression. Streetwork affirms this  exploration by providing opportunities for young people to try new fashion styles in our free closet or experiment with makeup, hairstyles, and nail color at our drop-in centers.

Streetwork Project holds Beauty Days throughout the year, during which young people can receive styling, skincare, and grooming services provided for free by volunteers working in the beauty industry. This month, we plan to hold Beauty Day at our uptown drop-in center with professional hair styling, makeup artistry, facial treatments, and more. 

These services demonstrate to young people that they are worthy and deserving of self care, and allow volunteers and staff to model how self care shows up in their own lives. Thanks to donors like you, we are able to make this possible. Thank you.

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Organization Information

Safe Horizon

Location: New York, NY - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @SafeHorizon
Safe Horizon
Hazel Chico
Project Leader:
Hazel Chico
New York , NY United States

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