What’s the first step in helping a youth leave the streets? Provide safety, reduce the acute stress, provide the basics of food and shelter, and build trust. This is the formula that has saved hundreds of lives of frightened lost youth in Alameda County since 2000. And there is no team better than the DreamCatcher staff at making that formula work for the youth who come to our doors. Years after youth have found their way to a future through our program they continue to stay in touch, to tell us their successes and challenges. Some are now on our staff.
DreamCatcher Youth Services is the only Shelter in Alameda County for youth aged 13-18. DreamCatcher provides a vital continuum of care for homeless, disconnected youth to enable them to become healthy, productive adults. DreamCatcher has a 14-year history of helping youth to make safe exits to a positive, stable environment and building relationships with youth that have resulted in their finishing high school, entering college, finding jobs and becoming productive, caring citizens of our community.
Currently, we have 8 beds and it is estimated that there are between 1500- 3000 disconnected youth in Alameda County. Over 90% of the 100+ youth who annually come to the shelter make a safe exit to their immediate family, a relative, a job training program, transitional housing or foster care. Our Drop-In Center provides food and support in the daytime for another 300-400.
DreamCatcher’s short-term, emergency shelter feels quiet and homelike, not fancy. If there aren’t enough beds and a youth is desperate to be safe, there’s the couch. Movement and activities are youth-driven and restful. Whether talking while the television is on or Facebooking on their phones or following our staff around asking questions, the feeling is safe, relaxed and lowkey. This shelter is a place for youth to rest and catch a breath.
During the day at the first floor Drop-In Center the feeling is equally lowkey. Youth come for a free dinner - sometimes the only food in their day – as well as laundry facilities, computers, TV, couches and peer support. There are also workshops, hygiene and school supplies, case managers and therapeutic intervention.
We would like to say that DreamCatcher has the answer for every youth but it is not the case. What we do have is a place that 9 out of 10 youth can start their journey. “I tell them when they get here. This isn’t where you land, this is just where you rest while we figure it out,” said Dwayne, Shelter Coordinator. For most it feels like a landing and when they leave it is because that landing was soft enough to let them rest unbruised and unbroken until they were able to start ‘figuring it out.’