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LIVE BEYOND: The Youth Service Bureau is Here For Kids If They Need Help

PART 1 of 3 Part series of Lost Coast Communication’s partnership with the CA DHHS, the Office of the Surgeon General, and the “Live Beyond” ACEs & Toxic Stress campaign.

Our past experiences don’t define us, but they can have a lasting impact. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are stressful or potentially traumatic experiences that happen before the age of 18, like having a caregiver who struggled with mental health or substance use, witnessing domestic violence, or experiencing abuse or neglect. When we experience persistent and ongoing stressful or traumatic events, or ACEs, they can cause a toxic stress response.

This can affect our bodies’ and brains’ development as children, and our physical and mental health well into adulthood. While ACEs and toxic stress may not always have a huge impact on our lives, for some of us they can influence our self-esteem, our ability to do well in school or at work, and our relationships, for example. The impacts may also show up in unexpected ways and situations affecting how we feel and act.

But most importantly, ACEs might be a part of our story, but they don’t define who we are or what happens next. We can learn how to heal and live beyond what happened to us.

Watch this video to learn more about ACEs and toxic stress, and how we can heal from their effects.

Local Resource Highlight
Redwood Community Action Agency

Humboldt County is fortunate to have the Redwood Community Action Agency. They have been a local catalyst for change since 1980. Among their programs is the Youth Service Bureau, also known as YSB, that provides a variety of vital services for runaway and homeless youth in the County. Opened in 1984, YSB’s original funding was a grant by the California Youth Authority to prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system and a grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services to support and assist runaway and homeless youth. In the beginning, YSB employed 4 people to run the program.

Since 1984, the Youth Service Bureau has been fortunate enough to grow in size and expand their services to the youth of Humboldt County. To date, they have a staff of 23 and operate a 24-hour emergency youth shelter, transitional housing, subsidized housing, and a youth drop in center called the Raven Project. All of YSB’s services are voluntary, free of charge, and they serve youths ages 10-24 years old. YSB’s programs assist youth who are not connected to any other services as well as foster youth who are wards of the State. All youth who access their programs are offered a variety of services including mental health counseling.

YSB’s mission is, “To inspire youth and families to recognize their strengths and power to live, learn, socialize and work in their community.”

YSB’s Programs: 

YSB Youth Shelter: Youth who have runaway, are homeless, or experiencing severe family conflict may qualify for assistance at 24- hour youth shelter that is located in Eureka, CA. All youth who contact them or are referred go through a brief screening process to determine if they qualify and are appropriate for their shelter services. Referrals for the YSB shelter occur 24 hours a day and can come from family, teachers, counselors, law enforcement, social workers, neighbors and youth may “self-refer”. Length of stay at the YSB shelter is case by case with most youth exiting within 3 weeks. Services provided include: 24-hour supervision, case management, private or shared bedroom, food, clothing, budgeting, mental health services, education and employment services, medical services when needed, family mediation and when needed, referrals or placement to long term housing. What makes the YSB shelter unique is there are very few shelters nationwide that serve “unaccompanied” minors. Youth residing at their shelter are not with their parents or legal guardians and in some situations, parent or guardian whereabouts are unknown.

Call 24 hours 707 444-CARE (2273) or text 707 496-0959.

YSB’s Transitional Housing: Youth between the ages of 12-24 who do not have housing or are fleeing abuse may qualify for one of their transitional living programs. Youth may be in foster care or independent from any other services. Youth accepted into their program may live in an RCAA/YSB owned property or other housing in the community that is approved by YSB staff. Length of stay depends on which transitional living program they qualify for but is typically between 18 to 36 months. Services provided include private bedroom or private apartment, food, clothing, budgeting, mental health services, education and employment services. Youth in the transitional living program from foster care or recently emancipated from foster care receive financial support in addition to the services mentioned above.

707 444-CARE (2273) ext 206, 208 or 205

YSB’s Raven Project: Youth between the ages of 10-21 who have run away, are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless or experiencing severe family conflict may access free and confidential services at the Raven Project Drop-In Center located at 523 “T” St., Eureka. The Raven Project offers showers, clothing, food, employment assistance, hygiene kits, mental health services and social groups to qualifying youth. Social groups hosted by the Raven Project are the Queer Coffee House, a weekly cooking group, and a Spanish Language Class. Raven social groups rotate depending on staffing and youth interest. Annually, Raven also hosts a youth led “Queer Prom” that attracts young people from all over the County.

Raven Projects Current Drop-In Hours:

Tuesday - Friday
1:30 pm - 5:00 pm
523 “T” St., Eureka, CA
(707) 443-7099

Start Healing

There are many ways to move past what has happened in your life. There are things we can all do in the moment to help ourselves respond better to our stress. Here are a few Stress Busters that you can also find from YSB programs. For more strategies, visit LiveBeyondCA.org/start-healing/.

Find Supportive Relationships

We thrive when we have meaningful connections. They lower our blood pressure, boost our immune system, release the brain chemical oxytocin, and reduce stress hormones. This response helps us stay calmer when stressful things happen. Make a list of the people in your life who make you feel good when they’re around and bring out the best in you. They could be friends, family, a teacher or coach, someone at work or school, a neighbor. YSB has caring and non-judgmental support staff coupled with peer activities to help you build those supportive relationships.

Sleep & Rest

Getting quality sleep lowers our stress hormones, gives us energy, and makes us feel good. It also helps calm our brains and bodies when stressful things happen in our lives. But sometimes that can be easier said than done. Having a safe place to sleep and rest is extremely important. YSB offers safe places for youths to find the sleep and rest they need.

Eat Well

About 95% of your serotonin (the neurotransmitter that helps regulate sleep, mediate your mood, and more) is produced in your gastrointestinal tract. Meanwhile, the bacteria in your gut (your microbiome) also sends signals directly between the gut and the brain. Taking care of your mental health also means taking care of your “second brain” through a healthy, balanced diet.

Practice self-compassion and keep in mind that it’s not your fault you’re struggling with eating healthy. Past and current stressful experiences may be getting in your way. Community services, support groups, and mental health programs can help — through providing free/low-cost nutritious food, coping strategies, and advice on healthier eating habits. The Raven Project Drop-in Center has weekly cooking classes. Learn to cook, eat well and make new friends.

YSB made a difference in 2023:

  • The YSB shelter provided housing to 58 minors (unduplicated).
  • YSB’s transitional living programs (long term) provided housing to 26 youth
  • Of the youth who lived in our transitional housing programs, 86% were employed or in school
  • 48 youth who were homeless, getting evicted, fleeing domestic violence or in foster care/recently emancipated from foster care received financial support to obtain housing or remain housed.
  • YSB’s Raven Project served or distributed 1182 meals
  • YSB’s Raven Project distributed 1448 hygiene kits
  • YSB’s Raven Project distributed 1100 harm reduction kits
  • YSB received over 300 calls from the community for services or referrals
Aura’s Story

At just 16 years old, Aura had been couch-surfing for 2/12 years with no family support. Conflict in the place she had been crashing forced her to leave and once again find a new place to stay.

She and her boyfriend, both 16 at the time, reached out to YSB for temporary shelter. After a few months of staying at YSB, Aura entered YSB’s long-term Transitional Housing Program, The Launch Pad. While living at YSB, Aura re-enrolled in school, got her first job and eventually graduated high school. Aura says that “YSB not only gave us a safe place to stay, and the life skills needed to survive in the outside world, but also a sense of family. The staff and case managers were so supportive and taught us so much”.

After her 18th birthday, Aura qualified for YSB’s Rental Subsidy Program which was able to help her secure a 1-bedroom apartment and provided financial assistance while she looked for a job that offered more hours. It’s been over a year since Aura exited YSB’s subsidy program to become completely independent. She and her case manager keep in touch and she is offered resources when needed. She will be turning 20 this summer. She and her boyfriend continue to rent the same 1-bedroom apartment she moved into through the YSB subsidy program. She is working full time, has 2 happy cats, and a stable life.

When asked about her experience, Aura said “YSB set me up for success, I was not on a good path before. YSB changed the course of my life and gave me the tools I needed to succeed.Aura-19 yrs old

Aura is not the only Humboldt youth who had success with YSB’s services. Check what these young folk have to say.

“Living at YSB was helpful for me when I didn’t have any other place to go. It’s great to see so many young people standing on their own years later after leaving YSB, and I’m glad that I’m doing better now too.” - Maryann, 20 yrs

“The events hosted by YSB’s Raven Project like the Cooking and Magic groups, and especially Queer Prom and the Queer Coffee House, give a safe space for me and others to feel comfortable being ourselves. It’s hard to explain but it makes the difference.” Maryann, 20 yrs

“The supervisors and staff at YSB are funny and determined people. They do so much to help keep our lives on track, and they’ve all got good hearts. They keep good structures and routines in our lives, even when we don’t really like it.” Kendra-17 yrs

“With the help of YSB I was able to get a job, get back on track with school and learn life skills” -Bella, 17 yrs

“I love being involved with planning and attending the Raven Projects Queer Prom every year. It’s great to have a youth event where everyone is accepting since we don’t have many youth friendly events in town. - Emma, 17 yrs

YSB does not charge for their services. They rely, instead, on grants and the generosity of the community to provide these much-needed services to this vulnerable population. If you would like to make a donation to Youth Service Bureau/Raven Project, you can mail it to 904 G St., Eureka, CA 95501 or on the web at www.rcaa.org.  

Services like the Youth Service Bureau can be the first step toward healing. Whether you spend a few minutes each day journaling or dedicate longer periods of time to reflection, eating well, mindfulness, or building supportive relationships, know that every moment you invest in your healing is a step forward. Healing is possible, and you are not alone. You CAN live beyond the things that happened to you. 

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