What to expect at our Drop-in Centers
A Warm Welcome
Carolyn Strudwick, the Associate Vice President of the Streetwork Project, is often the first to greet homeless youth at the Harlem Drop-In Center.
“It is important that whoever is sitting here creates a sense of warmth, welcoming and safety, ” Carolyn says, leaning against the brightly colored front desk. “It’s about creating a nurturing environment.”
Streetwork’s young clients often come into the center cold and hungry, tired and scared, especially if this is their first visit.
“We ask them if they are okay, that’s the first thing, ” says Carolyn, “If they seem uneasy, we might say, ‘Do you want me to call a counselor right now? Is there anything I can do?’ We make a connection. That’s the most important thing.”
After checking in with Carolyn or another counselor, the next stop is up to the client they can go straight to the showers, stop by the computer lab to check out job postings, or head to a counseling room to speak with a case manager. They are empowered to make their own choices, to make decisions that meet their individual needs with Streetwork’s guidance and compassion, not with judgment.
For most youth, getting a hot plate of food from Michelle’s kitchen is their first priority. “I can’t tell you how many hard-to-reach young people I have engaged through that kitchen!” Carolyn laughs. Once you meet Streetwork’s Food Manager, you will know why.
Most homeless young people walk through the doors of Streetwork’s Harlem drop-in center and head straight for the kitchen, and there are many good reasons why! At the Harlem homeless youth drop-in center, breakfast and lunches are served six days a week, and anyone can take food to go. Streetwork’s expansive kitchen opens up to the loft-like lounge where clients gather.
A large, lofty space flooded with natural light, the main lounge at Streetwork’s homeless youth drop-in center creates an inviting and relaxing atmosphere. Complete with comfortable chairs and couches, homeless youth are encouraged to catch up on much-needed rest in a safe environment. The Streetwork center’s private room offers up to two young people a place to take a nap on a first come first serve basis. Here they don’t have to feel scared of what might happen.
Because of the dangerous conditions homeless youth experience, they don’t really trust anyone at first. This makes the lockers at our drop-in center very important. Permanent lockers are provided for street homeless youth while others use day lockers to keep their belongings safe for the day.
Showers & Laundry
Equipped with two showers, Streetwork’s Harlem drop-in-center provides homeless youth with other toiletries including: razors, toothbrushes, mouthwash, deodorant, shaving cream, and more. For those who are lacking clothing, Streetwork gives wardrobe basics like new underwear and t-shirts. Oftentimes we provide even more necessities such as pants, shoes, coats, shirts, and more.
The cozy music 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 center, they can come in there.
In an open and airy corner of the main loft space you can find the Art Center. Next to the small library stocked with books for inspiration, the area has bright blue walls covered in beadwork, drawings, paintings and collages. The space is also a favorite of Streetwork’s youngest visitors — the infants and toddlers who come to the center with their young homeless and street-involved parents.
Nestled in a quiet wing of the spacious Streetwork center, multiple counseling rooms provide positive, private spaces where the staff can help homeless young people in one-on-one sessions. Every youth who is interested in receiving counseling is paired with a Case Manager who work with homeless youth as well as youth who are at risk of becoming homeless.
Having access to the computer room in Streetwork’s main lounge keeps these young people connected to those they can trust, inside and outside of Streetwork. The computer room also provides a social activity where the clients can be active in an internet age. It opens the door up for networking — for jobs, for housing, for education and more – whenever our clients are ready.
Next to the computer room hangs a bulletin board where staff and clients themselves post new opportunities for the youth. On this board, we list resources available in the community, everything from where to get a haircut, to free voicemail, to GED Programs.
One of Streetwork’s most powerful ways to reach young people is to through peer education programs. Current clients are recruited as educators at Streetwork’s drop-in center. Then the peer educators take action. “They talk to people when they go out into their neighborhoods, out “on the stroll, ” or wherever they are in life. They hand out safe sex packets and encourage other young people to practice safe sex.”
Engaging homeless and street-involved youth in educating their peers means that lifesaving information gains credibility and reaches those who need it most. The program also gives the young educators the opportunity to realize their own self-worth, their ability to make safe choices and their power to help others to do the same.
Streetwork’s Sexual Health and Wellness center provides a variety of services, including acupuncture, acupressure, mediation groups, and even haircuts. We empower our clients by encouraging them to embrace who they are. It’s all about truly, truly reaching another individual and meeting them where they are without judgment, without anything except wanting to see them whole.