The Y is creating pathways out of violence
On August 13 a group of Y donors, board member and Y branch leadership gathered at the Matt Griffin Y in SeaTac to see the impact of their contribution to the Y in creating, “Safe Spaces, Safe Communities”. The visit began with an introduction to the Charlie LaBenz Youth Development Center, a space that is specifically designed to give teens living in South King County a safe place to hang out and just be themselves. The teen center is chock full of games, art supplies, and music production equipment for teens to drop-in and use. More than 7,500 teens visit this space each year!
The group then turned their attention to the TV, where they watched this quick video about the Y’s youth violence prevention program, Alive & Free. This program serves over 300 youth every year through intensive street outreach, performed by Outreach Workers who have experienced gangs, violence, and/or the justice system in their own lives. By consistent communication, outreach workers build trust with youth and help them build pathways out of violence and toward independent and healthy lives.
Jovi Catena, Program Director, and David Lujano, Supervisor for Alive & Free joined the group for a discussion. David has worked for this program for 6 years, starting out as an outreach worker and now supervising a team specifically focused on serving South King County through partnerships with the Cities of Auburn, Kent, Renton and Tukwila. The Y serves as part of the YouthLINC intervention team, coordinated by the Center for Children and Youth Justice (CCYJ).
David shared that no two days look alike. Sometimes it is going to court to advocate for a youth, sometimes it is meeting a youth and their family at home to work on communications skills, or meeting in known areas like transit centers to engage youth in services. Participants do not typically engage right away in services, which is why in 2017 16,781 contacts were made with a 72% successful contact rate. According to David, this is also the most rewarding part of the work: seeing a young person earn their GED or secure housing after working with them for months, sometimes even years, toward a better life.
Every day the YMCA works to improve the health and safety of our community. More info about A&F here – more info about Youth Programs at Matt Griffin Y here.