By: Ara Grimaldo Saintus, Executive Director, After8toEducate
About After8toEducate: Our mission is to improve life outcomes and promote self-sufficiency by giving unsheltered high school students a safe place and offering education as a pathway out of homelessness and poverty.
Can you tell us more about the Moody Foundation’s grant for the 24/7 Drop-In Center and how it helps the community?
The Fannie C. Harris Youth Center’s Drop-In Center provides immediate support services to homeless youth aged 14-21, including access to showers, laundry facilities, meals and clothing. The center plays a critical role in providing essential resources and support to at-risk youth, helping them to gain stability at their immediate need.
How many people does your organization help every year and how do volunteers support this mission?
In the previous year, we provided aid to 1,900 youth, supplying over 19,000 resources that included clothing, shoes, transportation, education, workforce development, mental health support and more. Currently, as of January 2023, we have already served 358 youth, thanks to our expanded operating hours, which enable us to assist more at-risk youth.
Our center relies on the contributions of volunteers, with over 350 individuals from various sectors such as AT&T, Santander, Bank of America and other civic organizations offering their support. Volunteers create hygiene kits, which we distribute every quarter at street outreach events in Downtown Dallas. Additionally, other volunteer support comes from working at the clothing and food pantries as well as the community garden.
What services are most needed from the Drop-In Center?
The Drop-In Center provides crucial services to youth experiencing homelessness. The most needed services include case management, which involves working one-on-one with the youth to create a sustainable plan to get off the streets and into housing while addressing their basic needs.
Social, emotional and mental health support is also highly necessary for this population as many work through trauma and abandonment issues. Trained professionals at the center offer mental health support and a listening ear to help them navigate this difficult period of their lives.
Immediate support services are also available, such as warm meals, clothing and showers, as many of the youth who seek help at After8toEducate have not had access to these basic necessities in days.
Finally, transportation services are provided, including access to bus passes, Uber or Lyft rides, to help youth travel from south to north Dallas for medical care or employment opportunities.
What barriers do you have to overcome when serving your population?
It is surprising that a considerable number of individuals are unaware of the existence of homeless youth. Typically, when people think of homelessness, they automatically assume it pertains only to adults. Therefore, it is essential to increase awareness of this issue and collaborate on identifying ways to recognize when a young person is experiencing homelessness. This way, we can effectively provide the necessary support they need.