Did you know that according to the 2019 Santa Cruz County Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, unaccompanied children and transition-age youth under age 25 accounted for 29% of the total homeless population in our county?
Encompass Community Service’s Transition-Age Youth (TAY) programs aim to change that by increasing the safety, emotional wellbeing and self-sufficiency for high-risk youth who are experiencing homelessness. Through our TAY programs, staff conduct critically needed street outreach to engage youth ages 15-25 into comprehensive services, a path to housing and positive permanent connections.
In line with Encompass’s mission, the TAY team uses evidence-informed and culturally sensitive strategies that are rooted in person-centered, strength-based and Trauma Informed Care practices. In other words, we treat every client as the expert of their own story with the power to choose their own path as we offer tools and resources to support their journey.
To ensure that we continue to improve our services to youth and stay as relevant as possible in youth lives, we collaborate with a Youth Advisory Board. This board is made up of young people with lived experience who want to continue to advise and impact youth programs and services throughout Santa Cruz County.
This whole-person-centered approach is vital in serving our clients. Health conditions and traumatic experiences are common among homeless youth and young adults. In 2017, 32% of youth and young adults surveyed reported that they had been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused by a relative or someone they had stayed with, which for many, is the reason they are unhoused in the first place.
In 2019, more than a quarter of these youth reported problems with drug and alcohol use, psychiatric or emotional conditions. Our TAY Programs link clients with critical supportive services like mental health and substance use disorder counseling offered through our other Encompass programs, as well as through our partners and other county providers.
TAY also runs a drop-in resource center that offers a youth-specific safe space where individuals can access basic needs like food, a place to shower and clean clothes, as well as receive employment, education and housing navigation, counseling and case management support.
Providing a youth-specific space is an important distinction, as many youth who experience homelessness report feeling unsafe accessing adult-focused shelter services for fear of repeat trauma or other safety concerns, including sexual assault and running into former abusers.
Our current resource center on 530 Ocean Ave in downtown Santa Cruz is now accessible by appointment by calling (831) 226-3536. We are pleased to share that the center is moving to a new, larger facility in fall of 2021. Stay tuned for updates!