An outreach program for troubled Santa Barbara youths and runaways has found a home in Isla Vista.
The YMCA Street Outreach Program – which administers to homeless, runaway and at-risk teens – transferred its headquarters to the I.V. Teen Center in September after it took over management of the center from Zona Seca, Inc. last July. The program was transferred in hopes of reaching a larger number of youths and obtaining more office space. The center is now seeking volunteers to help with its cause.
Leonor Reyes, the Street Outreach case manager and I.V. Teen Center coordinator, said the program consists of staff members and volunteers who seek out teens in need throughout the Santa Barbara area. Reyes said they go out during the week and on weekends, offering help both day and night.
“Some of the hot spots, or target areas, are coffee shops, along the beach, the skate park and along State Street,” Reyes said.
The workers provide supplies such as food, water, juice, clothing, hygiene products, backpacks and “teen cards,” which include information and phone numbers to local public services that cater to those in need of help. Among the list is the free 24-hour crisis hotline, 1-866-HELP-TEEN, which offers help to both children and parents.
According to the Santa Barbara Police Dept., Reyes said, 293 youths were reported as runaways in 1998. In 1999, 248 were reported.
The workers also encourage youths in need, aged 10 to 17, to utilize Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Shelter at 301 W. Figueroa St., which provides counseling, food, clothing, referrals and help to transition into a safe and stable living environment. If the shelter is unable to fulfill a teen’s needs, it will refer him or her to someone who can, Reyes said.
“People will stay one day to a week and sometimes up to a month depending on their situation,” Reyes said.
The shelter offers temporary residence and requires those who stay to fill out nonresidential paperwork. If the teens are under 18 years of age, a parent or guardian is notified.
Reyes also said the outreach program at the I.V. Teen Center is seeking volunteers to work a four-hour shift, one day a week, for six months. She said all that is required to volunteer is filling out an application, a background check and a feeling of comfort around teens. Reyes said experience in this field of work is not necessary to volunteer.
To request additional information about volunteering for the Street Outreach Program, call 685-9170.