Understanding the Challenge
There are over 3,000 young people living and sleeping on our community streets in the San Diego area. Point-in-time census counts sometimes reflect a lower number, but these efforts understate the challenge by conducting the count on one specific day. Over the course of a year, the number is much higher. Many have endured traumatic family experiences. Abuse and abandonment are commonplace. They feel forgotten, unloved and unworthy. They don’t trust easily. Through our sustained efforts to forge relationships with them and help restore the bonds of community, we’ve developed a model that helps transitional-age youth off the streets. The youth, in turn, provide the inspiration for the volunteer-driven Urban Street Angels movement. They are the reason the organization exists today.
Urban Street Angels and 8 West
Since 2008, our volunteers have been walking the streets, the parks and the beaches in our community, providing homeless youth with meals, water, hygiene kits, socks, sleeping bags and backpacks, and referrals to community resources. Our goal is to help them establish a foothold that gets them off the streets. And we’ve learned that disrupting the pathway to chronic homelessness with innovative, sustainable solutions is the key. So in 2015, we launched 8 West – a job training program to pair with the Urban Street Angels supportive housing program (based on our evidence-based practice, featuring a harm reduction model with trauma-informed care). 8 West provides transitional employment opportunities in our social enterprise start-up, and much more. Above all else, 8 West provides the critical solutions our community needs to help end youth homelessness with a #HandUp.