Across the state, many communities are struggling with how to best support those experiencing homelessness. In Central Texas, one organization has been working to create solutions to address youth homelessness for almost 50 years now. Central Texas Youth Services (CTYS), which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, was first founded by community members concerned about homelessness in their area who saw that creating support services for youth could help to alleviate the problem. Today, thanks to various innovative funding sources, the organization has evolved to provide many different services that reach thousands of runaways, homeless, and troubled youth and their families throughout the Central Texas region.
Until 2009, CTYS was primarily focused on providing counseling. In the last ten years, its efforts have expanded greatly and it now has both on-site programs to provide shelter and services for youth and families and community-based outreach and education programs. The organization currently operates an emergency shelter for minors, two transitional living programs, two maternity group homes, drop-in centers, case management services, street outreach services, and preventive services within Central Texas schools.
Kami Diaz is the executive director of Central Texas Youth Services and has been working there for over 15 years. She says that it’s encouraging to see more awareness around runaway, homeless, and trafficked youth. “When I was working as a case manager in 2004, we knew the foster care population was at risk for running away, that they were at risk of homelessness when aging out of care, and were at risk for trafficking,” she said. “Now there’s more research and funding going into it and we’re finally seeing it be identified as an issue by decision-makers.”
Diaz cites collaboration throughout the community as being key to helping them tap into resources that have enabled them to expand their programming. “We receive notice of funding coming available at collaborative meetings and I receive emails from different people at organizations that identify funding they think may benefit our population,” she said.
Some of this funding came from a grant awarded by the Governor’s Office for a pilot project focused on addressing trafficking of youth. The organization heard about the funding through its involvement with the Central Texas Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (CTDMST) Roundtable and was able to apply and secure funding for a pilot project that ran from 2017 through this year. CTYS was also approached by the Texas Workforce Commission in 2008 to take part in a pilot program that funds their foster care and former foster care outreach program.
Central Texas Youth Services has been a member of TNOYS for many years and Diaz says that TNOYS’ variety of training services have been very useful for her organization to stay up-to-date on best practices in youth services. “In the past, we have had TNOYS trainers to come in and do team-building and self-care trainings for our staff and we access the online trainings a lot,” she said. “The annual conference is a benefit because it allows people the time off to get out of town and have less distraction when training.”
TNOYS is grateful to have Central Texas Youth Services as a part of our network and we celebrate the incredible impact the organization has made as it approaches its 50th year in operation!