More than 100 people celebrated the opening of the YouthConnect Center in downtown Springfield Tuesday morning at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The YouthConnect Center (often referred to as the YCC) is a drop-in center for homeless and at-risk youth ages 13 to 18. Here, teens can do their laundry at the YCC, take a shower, get a hot meal and to-go food, clothing, sleeping bags and hygiene products. They can also get connected to wrap-around services like housing and mental health care.
For now, the center is open 3 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, but the hope is to expand hours soon.
The YCC — located at 425 W. McDaniel St., Suite 160. — is a project of FosterAdopt Connect, a nonprofit agency that offers several programs for foster and adoptive families, the children in foster care and youth who are aging out of the system.
Erin Washburn, the YCC’s director, and FosterAdopt Connect Executive Director Brandi VanAntwerp cut the ceremonial ribbon Tuesday to officially open the center, but the YCC has been open to youth since Oct. 16.
In those few short weeks, more than 30 young people have come to the YCC for a variety of services.
By all accounts, word is quickly spreading about the center among Springfield’s homeless and at-risk youth.
Eventually, the center will be able to provide two to three nights of shelter for 16 to 18-year-olds while staff will work to get the teens into a more long-term housing solution or program. If a teen younger than 16 needs shelter, they will be referred to Great Circle’s Empowering Youth Program.
YCC created to fill major gap in community
“I think of this as being so many gaps filled today,” VanAntwerp said before the ribbon cutting. “We had organizations that could serve youth zero to 12, and we have an organization that can serve youth 18 and over.
“And we had a gap for our youth 13 to 18 who are unstably housed, who are doubled up, who are couch surfing,” she continued, “who are in crisis for a number of reasons, who were unable to have the services needed for them to move them forward as human beings.
“(The YouthConnect Center) gives everyone a sense of pride,” VanAntwerp said. “It gives them a sense of hope, and it builds trust for our youth to help them go on to being our next generation, to be our leaders, to be everything they can be for themselves.”
There are currently 14 different providers connected with the YCC and provide services there ranging from help with substance use disorder, mental health services, parenting education for teen parents as well as the parents of the teen clients.
This means teens don’t have to figure out how to get to these different service providers scattered throughout Springfield. Instead, those agencies will meet with the teen at the YCC.
Some of the agencies partnering with FosterAdopt Connect for the YCC include: Springfield Public Schools, Burrell Behavioral Health, Jordan Valley Community Health, Boys & Girls Club, Greene County Children’s Division, Greene County Juvenile Office and Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
Learn more about the history of the YCC, how it’s funded and how it serves youth here.
Volunteers needed to serve meals
In addition to monetary donations, donations of clothes, coats, shoes, new underwear, hygiene items, to-go food items, and sleeping bags, the YCC also needs volunteers to bring or serve hot meals to the kids.
At this time, the YCC is feeding about 15 kids twice a day. Find a sign-up calendar for a meal here.
Like the YCC’s Facebook page for more announcements and ways you can help.
The YCC’s downtown location will not be the YCC’s forever home.
The Boys & Girls Club of Springfield recently announced its plans to build a three-story, 44,000-square-foot center for middle and high school students ages 13 and up. The Risdal Family Center for Great Futures will be located at 810 W. Catalpa Street on the planned Grant Avenue Parkway.
When the Boys & Girls Club’s Risdal Family Center for Great Futures is complete — hopefully by August of 2024 — its third floor will be dedicated to FosterAdopt Connect’s YouthConnect Center for homeless and at-risk teens.
Learn more about the Risdal Family Center for Great Futures here.
Below is the photo gallery from the ribbon-cutting ceremony and a tour of the YCC: