The Houston Alumni & Youth (HAY) Center, a program of Harris County Protective Services (HCPS) that provides services to foster youth transitioning to adulthood, is unique among TNOYS members. That’s because it is a public-private partnership that relies on both county and private funding. According to Joel Levine, executive director of HCPS, that is key to its success.
“With the public-private partnership model, we’ve really been able to expand our programming,” Levine said. “Harris County provides funding for infrastructure and other administrative costs, but a lot of the money we need for programming and goods and services for youth comes from the HAY Center Foundation.”
Initially born out of a federal grant in 2005, the HAY Center has evolved over the years into a one-stop shop where current and former foster youth, ages 16 to 25, can access various services to help them lead successful adult lives. Those services include everything from programs that match them with local volunteers and businesses for access to mentoring and summer jobs, to a food pantry and housing vouchers that help meet their most basic needs.
Because it is part of HCPS, which has been a TNOYS member since the 1980s, the HAY Center has had access to TNOYS member benefits since it began. Of particular value to the HAY Center has been TNOYS’ youth engagement expertise.
“All of the programs we do are in response to needs youth are identifying,” Levine said. “TNOYS has brought us a lot of resources on how to involve youth in policy decisions, funding decisions – really, how to involve them at every level of the organization.”