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Bright Futures for Youth celebrates opening of drop-in center

Thursday morning will mark the grand opening of Bright Futures for Youth’s SAFE Youth Drop-In Center.

Bright Futures staff said the center will offer youth experiencing homelessness or living in an unstable environment help with overcoming these challenges.

Jennifer Singer, executive director of the nonprofit organization said that the center is intended to provide a safe, helpful environment for those in need.

“The drop-in center is available for youth to access basic needs, everything from clothing to grab-and-go food, and access to case management services,” Singer said.

“They can meet with a case manager who can help them with goal setting; people who will get to know who they really are so they can assist them in the next steps.”

Participating youth will also be welcome to stop in and enjoy downtime or just use the center as a place to relax or do homework and connect with other kids who may be experiencing a similar situation.

In addition, the staff at the center will help youth with access to MediCal or CalFresh programs and will also be able to help students enroll in Sierra College or certification programs, talk about the child’s living situation, and learn how Bright Futures can provide support.

The idea for the drop-in center was brought to Bright Futures by a community member who noticed the lack of these types of services for youth, and the acronym associated with it—SAFE—stands for Stability, Access, Foundation, Empowerment.

“There were limited resources,” said Singer. “We started a pilot program in 2019. There was a count (of residentially challenged youth) in 2017. At that time there were 175 couch-surfing high school youth, and that was the data we went with to justify starting this program.

“We have worked with 100 of those youth, and typically receive five new clients each week. We have 95 active clients right now.”

Added Singer: “The way we get our youth is we do get referrals; the high schools know about us, and we have a lot of our (existing) clients who have friends in similar situations. Kids can get involved. They can call and get an appointment for a case management meeting but can also just show up. Literally any kid can just drop in.”

Because Nevada County is considered a somewhat rural area, Singer added that attention to children who are facing homelessness is often more concentrated on urban communities.

The Bright Futures drop-in location is the only one of its type between Sacramento and Reno, and is one of the first in rural California.

“I think what’s important to note is that youth homelessness across the state has been under the radar,” Singer said. “People are now drawing more attention to it throughout the state. In a rural community, just like everything, you’re often behind the curve in identifying and addressing these issues. We are proud to be at the forefront of this (service).”

The Bright Futures for Youth SAFE Drop-In Center is located at 200 Litton Drive in Grass Valley. For more information please visit bffyouth.org or call (530) 265-4311. Drop-in hours are currently Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com.

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