Streetwork’s Harlem Center: Counseling Center

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Counseling Rooms

"We're for homeless and at risk of being homeless clients... sometimes directions change as we do counseling."

"We’re about harm reduction -- it’s your life, your choices. I try to reduce the harm," says Carla Harris, a senior case manager for Streetwork. She is seated in a counseling room, nestled in a quiet wing of the spacious new Streetwork center, where she has one-on-one sessions with her clients.

"I try to get young people who are out on the streets for the first placed quickly… the longer you’re out there, the more devastating it is to your heart, your mind, your spirit. Ideally, you want them off of the streets as soon as possible, which is why we have our emergency shelter program."

Streetwork’s overnight residence is located in a separate, confidential location further uptown. It is a refuge for young people who are hard to place in other residential programs. A survey of our clients found that 47% had a history of sexual abuse, 54% had lived in a group home, and 60% had experienced violence and abuse in their homes before fleeing to the streets.

Unable to cope with the past, some turn to drugs or battle with severe mental illness. Many are angry, frightened and despondent. For these reasons and many more, these youth have found themselves on the streets after being kicked out or running away from every other program the city has to offer.

For these young people, Streetwork’s overnight facility offers a true safe haven. Unfortunately, we only 36 beds are available each night to serve hundreds of clients. Our goal is to secure funding to open new, much-needed emergency housing programs. Streetwork’s drop-in center offers the next best thing to its shelter -- a safe, daily respite after a night on the streets.

After six years on the job, Carla finds it hard to choose just one story of triumph over the streets. "I’ve had so many clients who have touched my heart," she says.

Then she has another thought: "Listen, let me tell you what’s most rewarding -- when my clients stop coming. When they no longer need us, they stop coming. In the beginning I used to say: ‘Oh, is there something wrong?’ No, baby. I discovered they’ve gotten on their feet, and they don’t need to be here."

Next stop: The Computer Room.

Need help? Call Streetwork at 1.800.708.6600.

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Safe Horizon's mission is to provide support, prevent violence and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities.

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