Authored by JD Green, Youth Services Juvenile Receiving and Crisis Residential Program Manager
Recently, it was my privilege to not only attend the first annual Homeless Youth Forum sponsored by Volunteers Of America (VOA), I had the honor of being a panel member for a discussion centered around the question, “How do we better serve Utah’s most vulnerable youth?”
The forum was informative with a cross-spectrum of professionals with expertise on this critical topic. It is encouraging that homeless youth are receiving the attention often overlooked in the busy, fast-paced world. During the discussion with this panel of experts a wide variety of questions were asked by the audience. Where can minor youth go to find safety, shelter and support, seemed to be a common theme of inquiry by some of the people attending.
Salt Lake County Youth Services is the Utah facilitator of the National Safe Place program. Essentially, Youth Services Prevention and Outreach team go to various local businesses, schools and Salt Lake County agencies and train those employees what to do should a youth inform them that the youth is afraid to go home. The employees of the business call the Juvenile Receiving Center (JRC) at Youth Services. Our staff will go to the business to talk with the youth. Sometimes the reasons for not going home are complicated, and sometimes the crisis can be quickly resolved with a phone call and brief negotiations with concerned parents or caregivers. Businesses and agencies who have partnered with Youth Services can be identified by a sign that is a yellow diamond shaped sign identifiable with the words “Safe Place” and a graphic of a home.
For more complicated situations, Youth Services offers free short- or long-term individual and family counseling for eight weeks for youth ages 8-18 and their families with issues such as, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and assistance that contribute to runaway and ungovernable youth. Some problems can be resolved through case management or help in identifying resources available throughout our community.
Another way to access the groups, counseling and other resources at Youth Services is to walk-in the entrance at the main Juvenile Receiving Center or call the JRC – open 24/7. Youth Services can provide help through one of our programs or we can assist in finding help through a program provided by concerned professionals in our community. The situation or circumstances might be complicated–finding support is not and help is within reach.
In addition, Youth Services Milestone Transitional Living Program addresses the young adult population ages18-21 who face homelessness. The program provides safe housing along with the tools and education to help these youth become self-sufficient by offering access to employment and resources to help end the cycle of homelessness. To qualify see the application online. For more information on helping homeless youth find safety, shelter and support contact Youth Services at 385-468-4500.