Group provides an ‘Answer’ in our community
by Susan Hillgren
October marks the five-year anniversary for The Answer For Youth (TAFY), a local drop-in center that serves homeless youth and young families (13-35) in Clallam County.
Beginning on a shoe string on Oct. 5, 2009, with a small handful of local donators, TAFY opened its doors and served seven hungry kids. Making it a “mission” with “passion” has proved very successful for a small crew of a half dozen dedicated volunteers.
First, let me dispel some misconceptions. Most of our clients are above 16, it’s rare when we see younger youth, the younger ones have a whole world of their own and they don’t want to be found, and they aren’t.
All of our clients live together on the streets, under bushes and on couches of acquaintances. They know each other long before they come through our doors, so we are not mixing vulnerable people with predators.
We do not allow drug dealing of any kind on our premises. Does it happen? Possibly, but discouraged at all times.
The only people who are not allowed to come to TAFY are ones that may present a threat to clients or volunteers.
Barrier free is one of our mantras. Clients don’t need an ID or even a real name to access our services. We want them to feel they are important as a person first and foremost. Eventually they all share names and stories and life experiences.
Again, they all know each other so if someone is too old, we all know before the ink in dry on the sign-in sheet.
The great news is that TAFY has served over 425 unique individuals since its creation. Our numbers steadily have increased over the past five years and now we serve an average of 60 per day. That equates to over a 1,000 visits a month, not counting babies and toddlers they stroll in with. All come in for a hot nutritious meal and a safe place to feel cared about and loved for a short four hours.
They can receive many services while at TAFY — shower, laundry, clean clothes, socks, hygiene
products, diapers, formula and sleeping bags and tents. The list of services never ends as each day brings in new and sometimes strange requests.
TAFY is unique because we don’t have restrictions and policies that can encumber our abilities to be flexible and spontaneous. Clients have asked for us to cover the costs of circumcisions, vasectomies, condoms, psych evaluations, transportation cost to funerals, propane for living in tents, weddings, funerals, adoptions costs, the list goes on.
Do we say yes to all? No, but do we try to accommodate where we can and let them know we are here to help them, absolutely yes.
Do we make a difference? YES. Do we ROCK? YES. Just ask the handful of single moms, raising their own babies, with a GED, and a job, paying their own rent, because TAFY was there to support them in many ways. Ask the eight young men in alcohol drug treatment, which has NOT been court ordered, why they like TAFY? They will tell you we care about them, we don’t cut them any slack, we constantly harp (with love) on them to “get a life,” “shape up” and to “grow up.”
Being clean and sober is the first step. Every one of the volunteers at TAFY is very familiar with recovery and we promote this continually.
How easy is it for you to be a part of this awesome experience? Very easy! You can join our small band of dedicated followers that donate money monthly or when the spirit moves you.
You can collect and donate things from the needs list that you can find online.
You can provide meals or snacks or maybe just drop in and listen to what these interesting young people have to say.
TAFY wants to thank all of its wonderful donors. Over the past five years you have donated baked goods, toiletries, clothes, furniture, time, money, energy, flowers and much more. We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for you. You should feel proud and pleased; it’s you that has made TAFY such a success. You ROCK!
All are invited to our Halloween Open House at The Answer For Youth at 711 E. Second St., from 3-6 Thursday, Oct. 30. Bring questions about how you can help and if you bring a friend you win a prize.
You may have seen the signs around town ask for specific donations. We have drop boxes at Allstate Insurance, Kitsap Bank and Callis Insurance.
This week we are seeking donations of clean, warm socks for the winter. Anything helps.
Susan Hillgren is executive director for The Answer For Youth. Call 670-4363.