National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Month

For many families, November is a month filled with Thanksgiving dinners, family gatherings and the kick-off of holiday shopping. Yet, for millions of other young people, their reality couldn’t be further from these festivities. The National Runaway Switchboard estimates that on any given night there are approximately 1.3 million homeless youth living unsupervised on the streets, in abandoned buildings, or with friends or strangers. National Homeless and Hunger Awareness Month, recognized in November, is an annual awareness event where people across the country draw attention to the problems of hunger and homelessness through educational, service, fundraising and advocacy events.

Homelessness and Hunger Go Hand in Hand

Unfortunately, homelessness and hunger go hand-in-hand for America’s youth. Every state in the country faces a flood of young people with no place to call home. Florida’s warmer climates prove to be an even bigger draw for young people on the move to find a safe haven. In 1974, former Jacksonville Councilwoman Gwen Yates founded the Transient Youth Center to provide a safe shelter space for runaway youth. She initially battled the stigma that runaway or homeless teenagers are troubled, damaged or dangerous. She and others prevailed to create a safe space that would become the model for the entire state. In 1982, the center was re-named the Youth Crisis Center. Over the next few decades, it shifted focus from solely serving “at-risk” youth to including their families that are also impacted by traumatic life events like drug use, domestic abuse, bullying, divorce or the loss of a parent or sibling.

Expanding SAFE PLACES

Fast forward 43 years and YCC remains a steadfast leader in operating SAFE PLACE in Northeast Florida, the only national outreach program for at-risk kids in danger on our streets. There is currently an intense effort to expand the SAFE PLACE program because of the urgency regarding the rapid increase in child sex trafficking and additional risk for homeless LBGTQ youth. “The frightening speed at which sex trafficking is growing in our community has us connecting with current SAFE PLACE locations to make sure they are up-to-date on what it means to be a SAFE PLACE,” said Kim Sirdevan, YCC president and CEO. “We are also expanding our training to ensure we are aware of the signs of youth sex trafficking, as well as how to properly intervene when a youth is being trafficked.” Runaway, homeless, and young people trying to escape sex traffickers, can find immediate help by entering any location displaying a SAFE PLACE sign. The child at risk will be immediately connected to YCC and transported home or to the shelter.

House of Hope

The House of Hope is the next step for YCC to create a safe space for young adults 18-24 years old, who identify as LGBTQ, and are being stigmatized, discriminated against or are the targets of violence. “The YCC House of Hope will be a beacon to young people who have had the crushing experience of alienation from family support,” explained donor Delores Barr Weaver. “We need to embrace them so that they may gain the footing they need to be productive, good citizens in our community.” YCC is supported by a $100,000 fund-matching grant from the Delores Barr Weaver Fund to help launch the new, nine-bed House of Hope emergency homeless shelter.

Transformational Partnerships

Another challenge facing families and displaced children is hunger. In America, 1 in 6 children may not know where they will get their next meal. YCC partnered with Feeding Northeast Florida in 2018 to provide meals for children, families and young adults participating in several programs on its campus.  In 2017, YCC provided more than 22,302 meals just for the children in its Residential Crisis Care program.

By connecting millions of pounds of rescued food to a network of over 160 social service agencies and programs like YCC, City Rescue Mission, Sulzbacher Center and Salvation Army, these hunger-relief partners are able to provide not only food to those in need, but also services that can help these families and individuals end the cycle of poverty. Services might include programs like job training or placement, low-cost childcare, SNAP benefits, medical care, affordable housing and counseling. “As the region’s largest hunger-relief network, we are proud to forge this relationship with the Youth Crisis Center,” said Feeding Northeast Florida president and CEO Frank D. Castillo. “Through strategic partnerships like this one, we are collaboratively helping to transform our community.”

Are you concerned about relationship issues with your child or between family members? The Youth Crisis Center’s Outpatient Behavioral Health program provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric care to children as young as 3, as well as their families. Parents may receive individual and family counseling services regardless if their child is a YCC client. Click to learn more about 5 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Relationships.

National Runaway Prevention Month

A Teenager Acting Out

Senora Reynolds has a loud, bustling and energetic home with seven children. They range in age from toddlers to teenagers. The older kids help out, the smaller ones have their chores, and everyone has a role to get work done in this big, busy family. However, as Senora’s daughter, Senora Lee, turned 13, she started developing what Senora calls the “middle child syndrome”, which made for a challenging combination. “Over the summer of 2018, when my daughter turned into a teenager, she started acting out,” said Senora. “She was a borderline runaway; she was becoming defiant and didn’t want to come home.”

The Real Dangers for Runaways

Senora was terrified at the thought of her daughter running away and the dangers Senora Lee would face if she ended up on the streets or homeless. In a 2013 study, The Institute of Medicine stated that homelessness is the largest risk factor for the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) and sex trafficking of minors. Additionally, 48 percent of runaway and homeless youth who engaged in a commercial sex activity said they did it because they didn’t have a safe place to stay. During the course of one year, between 1.6-2.8 million youth run away from home.

YCC Provided a Time Out to Cool Off

Fearful that her daughter’s defiance would end up putting her in danger, Senora knew she had to put a stop to Senora Lee’s behavior. One night, when Senora Lee had come home late, they had a heated argument that ended in Senora calling the police. “They took her to the Youth Crisis Center, which was a good thing,” said Senora. “It gave us both time to cool off and make some decisions about how to handle the situation.” During her stay, Senora Lee received residential therapy, followed by outpatient therapy after she returned home. Her time at YCC let her know that no matter how bad she felt her situation was at home, she had a safe place to go for support. Senora says that helped her daughter put her situation in perspective and realize that an over-protective mom was better than a mom who wasn’t involved in her life at all.

Civil Citation Program

Senora says she is also grateful that the police took her daughter to YCC instead of a lock-down juvenile detention facility. YCC participates in the state’s Civil Citation program, which allows juveniles to stay at YCC and receive therapy services, instead of a having a criminal record.

Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

As a result of the services her daughter received, Senora has decided to utilize the outpatient therapy services YCC offers for families. She credits the therapists for making her feel comfortable about taking the entire family for therapy because they kept the lines of communication open even after Senora Lee returned home. Senora admitted a seven-child family can be stressful at times, so developing problem-solving skills and coping tools would be to the benefit of everyone. Senora Lee is about to turn 14, and her mom says things are a lot better because the family knows they have YCC to turn to if things get too tough to handle on their own.

Are you concerned about relationship issues with your child or between family members? The Youth Crisis Center’s Outpatient Behavioral Health program provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric care to children as young as 3, as well as their families. Parents may receive individual and family counseling services regardless if their child is a YCC client. Click to learn more about 5 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Relationships.

Navigating Relationships After a Cancer Diagnosis

Cancer is a very scary word, and when one person in the family has been diagnosed, it can feel like the entire family is facing the disease. When Robert* was first diagnosed in February 2009 with bone marrow cancer, his whole life came to a standstill. “I went from working 40+ hours each week and participating in extracurricular activities in my free time to not working at all and being bed-bound due to the horrific side effects from my treatments,” recalls Robert. “I had planned out my whole life, down to my retirement, but never thought to include a diagnosis and plan for cancer.”

Following any diagnosis, the next few months can be a whirlwind of medical treatments, hospitalizations, tests and side effects, which are often followed by feelings of depression, anger, anxiety and fear. “Those emotional responses to life-altering medical diagnoses are normal,” explains Youth Crisis Center’s Director of Program Services, Cecelia Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs, LMHC. “It’s important to develop a support system, not just for the patient, but for the entire family.”

For those facing a life-threatening illness, The American Cancer Society finds some of the most common emotional and physiological issues for their family members are:

  • Family and social isolation and/or conflict
  • Concern about the quality of life
  • Problems adjusting to illness or changes in care
  • Making decisions for future medical care (advance directives)
  • Grief

Robert says it was hard for him to reach out to family and friends because he was exhausted from his illness and the treatments. He didn’t have the energy and didn’t want them to see him looking physically ill. That can be very challenging for family and friends who want to help, but don’t know what to do when the person who is ill is pushing them away. “It’s beneficial for family members to be in therapy so they can also express their emotions/feelings and can work through them to find the best adjustments in the new situation,” advises Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs, LMHC. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach when you are going through something so personal. Everyone will react differently, but at the end of the day, we need to get everyone through this difficult time in as healthy a way as possible.”

A therapist can offer families the opportunity to share their feelings of loss, grief, sadness or fear in a safe and supportive environment. They can also provide referrals to resources in the community that assist with finances, transportation and caregiver respite. YCC identifies three top tips for emotional and mental stability when facing illness as a family:

  • Have the family participate in family counseling to help process the diagnosis. Work with a professional to develop an individualized plan for family needs.
  • Build a schedule and rotate caregiving shifts to help prevent burnout and minimize stress.
  • Don’t isolate yourself – this goes for the patient and the family members.

Robert says turning to friends and family for support did help him through this tough time. He also re-focused his fears to more productive avenues, like learning how to eat healthier and educating himself on what he could do to be an active participant in his healing and recovery process. He says he found a new respect for life’s preciousness and suggests considering the financial implications of these types of unexpected life experiences when making long term plans for yourself and your family.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

Are you concerned about relationship issues with your child or between family members? The Youth Crisis Center’s Outpatient Behavioral Health program provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric care to children as young as 3, as well as their families. Parents may receive individual and family counseling services regardless if their child is a YCC client. Click to learn more about 5 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Relationships.

International Day of Non-Violence

Be a Peacemaker in a Conflict-Filled World

People complain about the evening news; it’s all bad news, there’s too much violence and it makes them feel helpless. It’s easy to see why. According to the Peace Alliance, 1.6 million deaths worldwide every year are the result of violence. It is one of the leading causes of death in every part of the world for people ages 15-44. These grim statistics also extend beyond the human cost. On average, the price tag for police, justice, corrections and the impact on productivity for homicide and robbery is $3,257 for each U.S. taxpayer, or $460 billion for the United States economy. 

Violence Is Preventable, Not Inevitable

There are plenty of education and self-defense classes to learn how to avoid being a victim, or what to do to fend off an attack, but the safest and most cost-effective approach is to prevent violence from happening in the first place. That may seem like a naïve wish, but there is growing evidence, according to The Prevent Institute (), that violence is “preventable, not inevitable”. Preventing violence is a critical health and cost issue for individuals, families and communities. 

International Day of Non-Violence

Recognizing the need for non-violence is at the heart of International Day of Non-Violence, marked each year on October 2, in honor of Indian activist Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi led a non-violent civil disobedience movement and famously inspired non-violent movements for civil rights and freedom around the world. He is credited with saying, “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.”

Four Steps to Control Conflict

To prevent conflict from turning violent, experts suggest four steps to employ clear, empathetic communication:

Observations – Approach a problem with the facts, not your opinion. People are more likely to find common ground over a fact versus someone’s opinion. For example, “It’s midnight and I can hear your partying is still going strong,” addresses the facts of the situation versus, “It’s way too late for you to be having such a loud party.” 

Feelings – Identify your feelings without being confrontational or judgmental. For example, “Your dog is not leashed; I’m scared of dogs and it’s making me nervous.” Also, try to avoid projecting your feelings onto someone else by assuming how they may be feeling.

Needs – When our needs or the needs of others are addressed, it makes people feel heard and important. It also provides a clear understanding of what someone is asking from the other person or the situation. For example, if you want more time with your friend or partner, you can address it by saying, “I see that you have some free time tonight; I would love to catch up.” This keeps the focus on your needs without accusation that the person is not making you a priority.

Requests – For clear communication, it’s important to be transparent in what is wanted from a person or a situation. Conflict can occur when people aren’t honest, make demands or fail to provide real options. Initiate requests in a way that accommodates discussion, like, “I’m not enjoying this show; would you mind if we watched something else? We can find something we will both like.” It’s important to allow the other person to say no or propose an alternative.

Promote a Message of Peace

It’s also important to keep in mind that even if you do all of the above, you may not always get the answer you want. Practicing non-violence depends heavily on personal responsibility, taking ownership of your own feelings and letting others own theirs without judgement or hostility. Finally, take some time to encourage others to do something peaceful on International Day of Non-Violence. Meditate, pray, volunteer, or read or watch something that promotes a message of peace. Creating and maintaining peace in your household is a start, where everyone can do their part in promoting peace.

Are you concerned about relationship issues with your child or between family members? The Youth Crisis Center’s Outpatient Behavioral Health program provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric care to children as young as 3, as well as their families. Parents may receive individual and family counseling services regardless if their child is a YCC client. Click to learn more about 5 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Relationships.

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5 Ways to Improve Your Interpersonal Relationships

“Family Means Nobody Gets Left Behind or Forgotten.” – Lilo & Stitch

During her fifteen-plus years in the mental health field, Cecelia Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs, LMHC, has met her share of people who feel lost, sad or abandoned. As a licensed mental health counselor and current Director of Program Services at the Youth Crisis Center (YCC), she says those feelings can often be indicators of suicidal thoughts.

The Questionnaire of Concern

YCC requires young adults to fill out a questionnaire when they apply to its Touchstone Village transitional living program and one question asks if they know at least one adult or family member they could call in the middle of the night in case of emergency. Sadly, for most, the answer is no. Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs says when a young adult has no connections or support, there is an increased sense of loneliness and despair. She recalled one young man, named DD*, who came to Touchstone Village and made her very concerned about his potential for self-harm. (*Name has been changed.)

Afraid and Alone, A Worrisome Combination

Touchstone Village provides transitional living services to young adults ages 18-21 who may be homeless or in a variety of other situations which limit self-sufficiency. They have little-to-no family support and some have major mental health concerns, mostly stemming from traumatic events. “Often times, the family or friend support they do have is from someone who is taking advantage of them,” adds Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs. “We discuss and work through what a healthy relationship looks like.”

DD had just turned 18 when he arrived, afraid and alone. With his father incarcerated and his mother addicted to drugs, he’d been left with abusive grandparents, only to later be placed in roughly 30 foster or group homes. DD described himself as “anti-social” and “not having any friends”.  YCC’s mental health evaluations indicated he struggled with PTSD, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. These all contributed to a worrisome combination for Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs and her colleagues.

Digging Deep to Find the Brave in the Boy

At Touchstone Village, each resident has their own fully furnished efficiency-sized apartment and receives life skills, career development training, academic monitoring and support, and mental health services, if needed. The goal is to assist residents in developing skills necessary for self-sufficiency.

Upon entering Touchstone Village, DD remained reserved and cautious, isolating himself in his apartment. Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs and the team worked with him on both his life skills and social skills. They encouraged him to interact with other residents by playing air hockey, watching TV together and helping the group cook in the kitchen. DD began to show improvement with hygiene, keeping his room clean and increasing his social interactions. As his anxiety level decreased, he took college classes and held a part-time job. No one had ever taken DD for a professional haircut; so, as a reward, he got his hair styled. Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs says that was a big turning point in his self-confidence.

The Answer to the Question is YES!

Since coming to Touchstone Village, DD has been promoted to a shift leader role at his job, has a girlfriend, opened his first checking account, and now laughs and jokes with other residents. On his re-assessment questionnaire, DD answered “YES” that he did know someone he could call in the middle of the night. He responded that he is now part of a family that cares about each other. “He has a vision of himself as a successful adult,” boasts Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs. “It’s exciting to see him full of happiness and confidence.” Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs says knowing that DD has not just one person he can call, but a group of people he considers family makes her job fulfilling.  

If you know a young adult between the ages of 18-21 who is struggling to become self-reliant and independent, YCC can provide transitional living services through its Touchstone Village program. Click to learn more about Touchstone Village and the 5 Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently.

Download our free ebook!

5 Key Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently

World Suicide Prevention Day

Something Was Wrong

Justice’s parents could tell, even as a child, that their bright and precocious daughter was struggling with something. They didn’t know what it was, and she couldn’t explain it. They had her tested for everything from ADD to autism and nothing showed up. When Justice turned 12, her behavior was so extreme that she had to be hospitalized, where she was then diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Her diagnosis, however, did not mean she was cured; and, over the next five years, her condition led to increasing conflicts with her family and additional hospitalizations. Her mother began to fear their home did not feel safe for the rest of the family, so Justice moved out. “A lot of the time – when I was going through my depression – I didn’t want to seem needy or ask for help,” explains Justice. “I wanted to handle it myself, but I really wasn’t handling it.”

The Village That Gave Her a Voice

Justice heard about the Youth Crisis Center’s Touchstone Village and was eager to see if she qualified for the program. Touchstone Village provides transitional living services to young adults ages 18-21 who may be homeless or in a variety of other situations that limit self-sufficiency. Residents live in their own efficiency-sized apartment for a monthly nominal fee. Residents also receive life skills training, career development training and academic monitoring and support. Mental health services are available as needed. The goal is to assist residents in developing skills necessary for self-sufficiency.

Justice qualified for an apartment, but it was the mental health counseling that was critical to helping her realize she needed to be responsible for her own future. She had to learn to take her medication and manage her depression and anxiety herself if she wanted to be independent and live on her own successfully. Justice finished high school, found a full-time job and enrolled as a part-time college student. “As an adult, if I don’t take care of myself and I lose my job, then I won’t be able to pay my bills or have a place to live,” acknowledges Justice. “I love being able to make my own decisions and buy what I want, so it’s very important that I stay on track.”

You Can’t Press Pause on Your Life

Justice encourages other young people and their families to be proactive about mental health. She believes that mental health issues should be addressed and managed at a young age, before a person needs hospitalization or begins to experience suicidal thoughts. According to the World Suicide Prevention Day website, suicide is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds. Justice admits it is hard for a young adult to ask for help. “You don’t want to appear different to your friends because you have to take medication or go to a counselor,” adds Justice. She says friends or family can be supportive by simply telling that person they are loved, appreciated and valued. For young adults battling depression, she encourages them to educate themselves, seek out counseling or medication, or even find a form of spiritualty. “You can’t pause your life because you have a mental illness or something,” insists Justice. “You have to be able to say, ‘Whatever happened to me is part of who I am. My life is what I make of it and I want mine to be great.’”

If you know of a young adult between the ages of 18 – 21 who is struggling to become self-reliant and independent, YCC can provide transitional living services through our Touchstone Village program. Click to learn more about Touchstone Village and the 5 Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently.

Download our free ebook!

5 Key Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently

Family Is Where You Find It

Most people would admit to preferring the company of happy people over grumps. But did you know that happiness is contagious and can spread to an entire group of people from just one happy person? National Happiness Happens Day encourages us to recognize happy moments and think about happiness in our daily lives. This “happy-holiday” encourage us to remember the joy we create for ourselves and others.

To share some healthy happiness, residents at the Youth Crisis Center’s (YCC) Touchstone Village, a transitional living program that provides services to young adults still developing self-sufficiency skills, were treated to a “family night” at Bowl America. “We know that many of our residents struggle with healthy and happy relationships,” said Cecelia Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs, LMHC and Director of Program Services at YCC. “So, we want to create opportunities that encourage an environment where they can develop a sense of family, to feel what it’s like to trust, support and bond with each other.

Researchers say a happy family environment, no matter the size, genetic relation or how the members came to be a family, creates a healthy life for everyone involved.

4 Reasons Why Family Time Is Happy Time

Families Who Play Together Stay Together
Family time is an important bonding experience, which deepens relationships. Play is a way to work out family issues, relieve stress and create opportunities for teamwork, which is helpful in coping with stressors like finance, health issues and busy schedules.

Making Merry Memories
It’s important to create environments where happy memories can occur. Families come in all shapes and sizes, so providing a variety of healthy experiences will help give blended families a common goal and mutually-fond memories, especially if the family unit has challenges to overcome when together.

It’s Okay to Be Sorry
When family members or a family unit gather, it’s possible that someone will say something hurtful or annoying. It’s important to spend enough time together to make those mistakes and learn how to apologize and forgive each other. If time isn’t invested to first establish trust, it’s hard to turn to those underdeveloped skills later.

Bonding for Better Behavior
Parents should not only teach rules and good behavior to children at home, but also take children into the outside world to practice socializing and interacting with others. Activities that provide time to talk, laugh and compete all help the bonding experience. Correcting behavior like being a bad sport, or not following rules or etiquette, affords low-pressure teaching opportunities for parents, siblings or friends to model.

Make sure to put the fun in your family time; even deciding what to do can turn into a fun activity. If you need an idea, the residents at Touchstone Village say they are heading to Skate Station next month!

If you know of a young adult between the ages of 18 – 21 who is struggling to become self-reliant and independent, YCC can provide transitional living services through our Touchstone Village program. Click to learn more about Touchstone Village and the 5 Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently.

Download our free ebook!

5 Key Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently

How Friends Can Save Your Life

The popular show Friends featured a group of friends who experienced the everyday struggles of life, love and growing up. The theme throughout the series was finding support in each other despite obstacles or disagreements. Those virtues of a good friendship are celebrated on the first Sunday of August during National Friendship Day, set to honor friends, family and groups who provide support and encouragement. Rachel Mulholland, LMHC and YCC Touchstone Village therapist, sees the negative impact that occurs when young adults don’t have a strong support system. “Many of our young adults come to us without having a foundation of support, which leads to mistrust, increased anxiety and depression.” Mulholland says that a positive support system, whether from friends, family or a counselor, can encourage confidence, independence and an overall healthier lifestyle.

3 Benefits of a Support System

Find Friends Who Invest In Your Happiness
Relationships are an instrumental part of success. A friend who can be counted on not only to listen and provide positive feedback, but to also be honest in their critique and advice, can provide a roadmap for success. These guiding friends will also be complimentary and encouraging of your accomplishments. A toxic friend can increase stress and negativity, create insecurity and self-doubt, and ultimately deter you from your goals. If a supportive friend can’t be found, or challenges are too big for a simple sit down to talk it out, then sometimes a mental health counselor or support group can fill the role of a mentor or structured support system.

Having Support Makes You Healthier
During stressful times, our bodies can react in negative ways through physical ailments like high blood pressure, sleeplessness or headaches. Support from family and friends can do more than just ease your mind, they can make you healthier and even save your life. Research conducted at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina showed people who did not have strong social support were 50% more likely to die from illness than those who had support.

Mentors Provide Positive Reinforcement
Young people with mentors have shown to be more confident and less likely to get into trouble. A five year study sponsored by Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada proved that a mentor can help navigate students through daily pressures and provide a foundation of self-reliance when it comes to making smart decisions. Students with access to an advisor, or a teacher who provides support, feel more self-assured about their productivity and less stressed over peer pressure. Having a mentor to provide leadership and guidance helps young people build confidence as they develop their independence for the future.

In addition to teaching independent life skills training, Touchstone Village at YCC also provides mentoring and support. Residents receive life skills training, career development, and academic monitoring and support. Mental health services are available as needed. The goal is to assist residents in developing skills necessary for self-sufficiency.

If you know of a young adult between the ages of 18 – 21 who is struggling to become self-reliant and independent, YCC can provide transitional living services through our Touchstone Village program. Click to learn more about Touchstone Village and the 5 Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently

Download our free ebook!

5 Key Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently

Minority Mental Health Month

Young people face many potentially overwhelming challenges, including peer pressure, cyber bullying and grade anxiety. For some, these problems are further exacerbated by a mental illness, posing a simultaneous challenge to their maturation, development of life management skills and emotional stability.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that 21% of young adults have a mental illness. Categorized as 18- to 25-year-olds, this young adult group has the highest rate of mental illness among adults. Mental health issues in young adults can result in delayed development, strained relationships and a struggle for self-sufficiency.

“We make an effort to reach out to, and welcome, young people from various backgrounds, cultures, races, genders and sexual orientations. Whether they need transitional living services, mental health counseling or both, we create personal plans to match their needs,” said Cecelia Stalnaker-Cauwenberghs, LMHC and Director of Program Services at Youth Crisis Center (YCC).

YCC’s Touchstone Village provides transitional living services to young adults ages 18-21 who are homeless or in situations which limit their self-sufficiency. While help is readily available at YCC and Touchstone Village, sometimes the challenge is getting young people to ask for it, particularly those in a minority community. Touchstone Village is not exclusively for those struggling with a mental illness, young adults requiring additional services can receive them while still feeling a sense of inclusion and community. Currently, 75% of Touchstone residents identify as a minority, based on race or gender identity. 

Minority Mental Health Month

Minority Mental Health Month started in 2008 to bring awareness to the unique struggles that under-represented groups face in regard to mental illness. Mental health is viewed differently among various individuals and families, depending on their values, beliefs, sexual orientations, race, ethnicity, language or religious background. Any stigmas are often passed on to the younger members of the population. Culturally, taking care of mental health issues can be seen as a weakness, more so in the Asian, Latino and African American communities. 

Lack of Diverse Therapists

For members of a diverse population, it can pose a challenge to comfortably discuss emotional or mental health issues with a therapist or doctor that does not share their own appearance or cultural experience. There is a sense that the profession remains dominated by white counselors and minority clients struggle to find professionals who they can identify with culturally.

YCC tries to ease the stigma and break down barriers for Touchstone Village residents. They provide a diverse representation of program staff and therapists. Additionally, therapists are required to take cultural sensitivity training annually. “Acknowledging they are not alone and seeking out assistance is the first step for Touchstone Village residents to gain independence and confidence in a culturally sensitive manner,” said Kim Sirdevan. “Then, they can follow a care plan and tackle challenges other young people face without losing their independence.”

If you know of a young adult between the ages of 18 – 21 who is struggling to become self-reliant and independent, YCC can provide transitional living services through our Touchstone Village program. Click to learn more about Touchstone Village and the 5 Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently

Download our free ebook!

5 Key Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently

What is Touchstone Village?

18 Years Old, Alone and Afraid

When Andrew was 18 years old, he found himself adrift. A high school dropout, at odds with his dad, he left home with no real knowledge about how to take care of himself. “I was on the streets,” explains Andrew. “I was just lost and alone.” Andrew saw some of his friends using drugs and he knew he needed to turn his life around. A friend from high school suggested he contact the Youth Crisis Center (YCC) – they had a place called Touchstone Village on their Jacksonville campus.

What is Touchstone Village?

Touchstone Village provides transitional living services to young adults, ages 18-21, who may be homeless or in other situations that limit self-sufficiency. Each resident has a fully-furnished, efficiency-sized apartment for an income-based monthly fee. Residents also receive life skills training, career development, and academic monitoring and support. Mental health services are available as needed. The goal is to assist residents in developing skills necessary for self-sufficiency.

From the Wilderness to Wonderful

Andrew contacted YCC and successfully passed the application, interview process and orientation. Within months, he began working on the program requirements: getting his high school diploma, maintaining employment and working toward financial stability. The life skills classes taught him how to cook, clean, save money and file his taxes. “They woke me up to reality,” said Andrew. “They made me realize the world was more than being homeless.” Like most Touchstone Village residents, Andrew needed to learn how to establish personal goals and what it takes to build healthy, trusting relationships. Andrew is also rebuilding his relationship with his family, who says they are proud of him.

Building A Foundation for the Future

Some residents come to Touchstone Village because of homelessness; others need a transition from their parents’ home before living independently. “Some young adults take longer to develop life skills, are not emotionally ready, or need mental health counseling in addition to learning how to live independently,” adds Kim Sirdevan, YCC’s president and CEO. A Transition Living Specialist provides training to help residents apply for college/vocational education, connect with jobs, learn financial responsibility, and master other skills they’ll need once they leave Touchstone Village.

“Independence” Day

Andrew will head to boot camp just days before July 4, 2018 – Independence Day. Now 20 years old, he says his time at Touchstone Village gave him the chance to rethink what he wanted to accomplish. He is determined to do something positive, possibly in law enforcement, so he can help make the world a safer place – like the safety he says he found at Touchstone Village. 

If you know of a young adult between the ages of 18 – 21 who is struggling to become self-reliant and independent, YCC can provide transitional living services through our Touchstone Village program. Click to learn more about Touchstone Village and the 5 Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently

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5 Key Skills Young Adults Need to Successfully Live Independently