Before 1980, children and youth who were homeless or who had run away from an abusive situation, were locked in the detention center. That is, until a group of concerned citizens decided – no more. They started the first and still the only emergency youth shelter in the nine-county area of northern New Mexico. Today, with a new facility constructed in 2003, the shelter program annually serves approximately 145 children and youth ages 10-17.
The Youth Emergency Shelter (YES) program accepts children and youth who are:
Homeless and/or runaway
NM Children Youth and Families Department clients who are at risk of abuse or neglect
Referred by Children’s Court
In transition between residential programs
Otherwise at risk
The state licensed program provides 12 beds with one additional emergency bed, in case a young person needs shelter in the middle of the night. On an average night, there are 6-10 youth staying at the shelter. The shelter program’s license permits youth to stay up to 120 days, but the average stay is 30 days or less. As soon as young people arrive at the shelter, staff work hard to help young people find a more permanent living arrangement.
The shelter provides more than meals and a bed. As in all YS programs, life skill building is integral to the program’s effectiveness. Art projects, money management, cooking classes and trips to local resources such as the library, Genoveva Chavez Community Center and museums are some examples of life skills development at the shelter.
The shelter is not a lock-down facility. Youth must sign a written agreement that they want to stay in the shelter. Written Guardian or Parental Consent is also required within 72 hours of admission.
Eligible youth must be between 10-17 years of age, willing to stay, sober upon arrival and have no history of sexual assault.
At YSFS we work with youth from a strength-based and youth development perspective rather than from a perspective that the young people who stay with us are ‘bad kids’ who have problems. For self-destructive or inappropriate behaviors, we use a harm reduction approach rather than a zero tolerance one.