It’s been an interesting year. After teaching in public high schools for nine years the pace, culture, and cleanliness of the bathrooms at the community foundation was both jolting and welcome. I remember telling myself that maybe this self-imposed sabbatical would work out. The first weeks were spent trying to wrap my head around where exactly I fit in the collective action plans goals. Once I had a tentative grasp on my role it was time to try and do something.
Trying to pull together the original Prevention and Re-engagement of Disconnected Youth Working Group didn’t exactly pan out so, I moved on to trying to map pertinent and current resources and programs. This was done through a lengthy survey sent to all the players whose contact information I could drum up. Admittedly, I probably missed some and this should be revisited and updated by my successors.
Concurrently, I began dabbling in community outreach by integrating into the programming at Youthworks!, Pete’s Place, & Youth Shelters - Street Outreach. Meeting direct service providers and their clients/students where they were at was eye opening and informative. This helped me translate often rambling and vulgar youth and provider speak into concise needs that were appropriate to present to the Mayor’s Children, Youth, & Families Community Cabinet.
Because I didn’t have a functioning working group, I wound up finding and participating in a few groups whose missions overlapped with mine. The Prevention Alliance and Adelante’s Homeless Youth & Families Task Force helped me navigate the landscape unique to Santa Fe and network with some wonderful people. I also helped form and lead a group interested in performing a survey of disconnected youth themselves. CYFD, DOH, Youthworks!, City of Santa Fe, and others came together to plan. We wanted to have some overlap with questions from the Youth Risk Resiliency Survey but quickly acknowledged that trying to find gaps in services and addressing other questions unique to disconnected youth would also be a good idea. The survey is scheduled to roll out at the end of July. For eight weeks, teams of young surveyors will canvas with the goal of completing 400 surveys.
Looking back, I’ll continue to be most proud of being part of getting Shelter Now! off the ground. Adelante, Youthworks!, & Street Outreach have been scratching their heads over how best to serve 18-24 year old homeless youth for a long time. There wasn’t a developmentally appropriate, local shelter option for them. We partnered with The Kind World Foundation and the Interfaith Leadership Alliance and, in the span of a month, planned and launched a temporary shelter for the cold months. It was a success and is a viable pilot. It is our hope that the pilot will translate to a more permanent program for next winter.