Streetwork’s Harlem Center: Music Room

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The Music Room


"Streetwork is for alot of these young people the only place left that they have."

"I’ve heard some incredible piano playing from these young people," says Jase Schwartz, a Case Manager for Streetwork who looks rather young himself, sitting in the Harlem center’s music room. "A lot of times, we’ll stand around and play music and rap -- they create their own music in here."

But the cozy room off of the bustling main lounge has a dual purpose. It can also be a quiet, relaxing place. "If a client’s not feeling well, and they need to lie down somewhere and not hear all the noise of the drop-in, they can come in here."

"If I know a client is sleeping on the train, I may say: ‘Hey, I know you haven’t been sleeping well lately. Do you want to go into the music room for a little bit? It’s free right now.’"

Through these small, caring gestures, Jase forms connections with young people who are traditionally considered difficult to reach. "We develop relationships of trust with clients who are very, very distrustful of social services agencies. A lot of them have been in the system for years -- whether that’s the foster care system, the juvenile justice system -- they really do not want to talk to someone who’s wearing a suit and tie sitting behind a desk."

Jase, like all Streetwork case managers, counsels young people wherever they are comfortable -- the lounge, the music room, a counseling room -- whenever they are ready.

"We try to offer as much as we can here for whatever a client needs. We offer medical services right here on site, we have legal services, we have psychiatric services. But clients aren’t forced into any of that -- it’s offered if they want it."

By letting young people choose their own goals and set their own pace, Streetwork is able to draw in young people that have not been able to make it other programs. Our goal is to help young people make it in our program.

"If a client becomes angry and isn’t able to manage the boundaries of the program, we have something called restrictive counseling," Jase explains. "Rather than completely cutting them off, we allow them to come see their counselor when we’re closed." The clients lose the privilege of interacting with their peers for a period of time, but the hard-won connection that their counselor has forged with them is not severed.

To Jase, the connection is the most important thing: "For a lot of these young people, Streetwork is the only place that they have left."

Next stop: The Art Center.

Need help? Call Streetwork at 1.800.708.6600.

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