In recognition of National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, TNOYS is proud to spotlight Central Texas Youth Services and uplift the fantastic work of this organization. Shellie Hassell, Executive Director, answered a few questions about the work their organization is doing below.
Central Texas Youth Services works with the runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth in central Texas, ages 11-25. Through their many programs, they offer case management services that help Central Texas youth find employment, housing, identifying documents, and more. They also work to ensure that all youth who access their services have their basic needs met, including providing food, clothing, shelter, etc.
How does Central Texas Youth Services work to ensure everyone is provided a home, hope, and care?
CTYS works to provide each client who receives our services with the necessary skills and resources needed to meet their basic needs, as well as offering support in finding housing, employment, and education.
How does Central Texas Youth Services work with youth and young adults experiencing homelessness or housing instability? Tell me about your organization’s various programs and activities for youth of different ages/needs.
CTYS offers a range of programs to keep youth safe, ensure their needs are met, and aid them with the transition into adulthood.
Option House exists to help reduce the homeless youth population and alleviate their safety issues by providing shelter care to homeless and at-risk children and youth ages 11-17 years. Services include food, shelter, clothing, education, medical and dental care, transportation, recreation, counseling, life skills training, referral, and information. Staff strive to reunite the youth with their families when safe and appropriate. If abuse or neglect is reported or suspected, then staff involve Child Protective Services (CPS). Youth ages 16 & 17 who cannot return home or enter CPS care can participate in the Option House Transitional Living Program (TLP) services. Older youth, turning 18, are offered the opportunity to join the Transitional Living/Maternity Group Home program to pursue employment or complete their education.
The Transition Resource Center exists to help move youth who have left state foster care, ages 16-25, who are unemployed and are not enrolled in post-secondary education to create pathways to independent living and self-sufficiency. Eligible youth receive job readiness training, are supported in employment searches, are provided a monthly bus pass for transportation, receive monthly assistance with groceries and hygiene items, are assisted in completing enrollment in college, are provided school supplies, and may receive clothing for work or school. Life skills training, including basic hygiene, communication skills, appropriate attire for school or work, nutrition and shopping, budgeting and money management, and obtaining medical and dental care, are also provided to these youth.
The primary goal of Project Hope and Project Konnect is to assist homeless and at-risk youth in accessing emergency services and community resources. The program primarily accesses youth on the streets, in public schools, and through Drop-In Center locations. Immediate services offered include food, water, shelter, and clothing. Youth receive referrals to the Drop-In Center locations where they can access a hot meal, hot shower, wash their clothes, life skills, and case management services. Project HOPE is an expansion of the services offered through the Drop-In Centers. The increased services offer sex trafficking screening, therapy groups, and support to facilitate restoration and healing.
Through Safe Place, youth are educated on the purpose of Safe Place sites and how to access emergency help from a safe adult. We currently have over 350 Safe Place sites in our area.
Finally, the Transitional Living & Maternity Group Home Program moves homeless young people into their own apartments for up to 18 months with the goal of independence and self-sufficiency. Central Texas Youth Services Bureau leases 16 beds in apartments and four TLP beds at Option House for this program. Eligible homeless youth receive shelter, food, hygiene and clothing items, monthly bus passes, case management, life skills, employment and educational assistance, and assistance in obtaining credentials (Birth Certificate, ID or driver’s license, Social Security Card, school records or transcripts), assistance with applications for Medicaid and Food Stamps.
What are some of the challenges youth experiencing homelessness in central Texas face that your organization is helping to address? What are Central Texas Youth Services’ plans for the future?
The biggest challenge we currently face is the reduced number of shelter beds available for our adult population ages 18-25. The goals for the future are to continue to provide quality services to the runaway, homeless, and at-risk youth in Central Texas.
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