By Mario A. Cortez
With the opening of the downtown Urban Street Angels Center in last week, homeless transitional-age youth (ages 18 through 25) with mental health needs now have a space where they can access housing, behavioral services, and much more under one roof.
The center, located at 1404 Fifth Avenue in downtown San Diego, provides either a three-month or nine-month housing program for youth experiencing homelessness depending on their situation and needs. While boarding at the center, accessible resources include mental health services, job training, nutritional assistance, showers, laundry machines, and referrals to the County’s Behavioral Health System. Holistic health practices such as yoga, reiki, acupuncture and chiropractic treatment are also available to residents.
Eric Lovett, founder and director of Urban Street Angels, said to La Prensa San Diego that the center is an vital addition to the local network of homeless services as it can stop transitional age youth from entering a perpetual cycle of homelessness.
“It is important for us and the City to stop homelessness before it becomes a chronic issue, and the best way to do that is to connect youth to help so we can help change their trajectory,” he said.
In order to receive housing and provided services, participants must be between the ages of 18 and 25, be experiencing homelessness, and qualify for County behavioral health services. There are currently 25 residents at the new, 25,000-square-foot center, which relocated from other Urban Street Angels facilities in the college area and National City. There is currently a waiting list for services.
Despite the wide range of services available to the region’s homeless population, many of these are either out of reach for homeless youth or not targeted toward this demographic. According to San Diego Youth Services, there are an estimated 1,100 homeless youth in San Diego county at any given time. The number of homeless youth in the county also jumped by 39 percent from 2016 to 2017.
Urban Street Angels looks to successfully help over 100 transitional-age young adults break the cycle of homelessness by 2020, and more than 500 by 2025. This nonprofit has helped over 2,000 homeless youth since its foundation in 2012.
More information on Urban Street Angels and information regarding access to services can be found on its website, http://www.urbanstreetangels.org/.