Building Trust by Supporting Homeless Youth and Young Adults Unconditionally
No requirements. No finish line. Nobody gets kicked out. The San Francisco nonprofit At The Crossroads (ATC) practices a model of unconditional support when serving youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. For clients, that means no hoops to jump through to access services and once they’ve joined, clients can call upon the staff for as long as they need.
“We’re working with people that face the most barriers, the most hardships, and are exposed to the most trauma,” says Program Director Demaree Miller. “So to design a program that has a ton of requirements to access services, well that doesn’t make much sense to me.”
For the last 24 years, At The Crossroads has been providing barriers-free, long-term services — counseling, case management, food, clothing — to homeless and unstably housed youth and young adults in San Francisco’s Mid-Market neighborhood and across the city. A staple of At The Crossroads is nighttime outreach, where they walk the street talking with people and handing out things like socks, first aid supplies, and sandwiches. Anyone they talk to can be considered a client.
At The Crossroads’ Executive Director Charles Lerner says the organization prides itself on its commitment to serving clients unconditionally and for the long term — and he means long term.
“Once you’re a client, you’re always part of the ATC family,” Lerner says. “Trust is really, really hard to build with our clients, especially those who’ve experienced a lot of trauma.”
The age eligibility for clients is between 16 to 29, and the staff will continue to support a client up to 37, and then informally after that.
Sticking with the clients no matter what builds trust, Lerner says. It’s that trust that makes everything ATC does possible. In fact, according to At The Crossroads, nine out of 10 clients achieve one or more of their goals, whether that’s securing housing, finding employment, going to school, or addressing substance use.
“Trust is a really big part of social capital,” Miller explains. “It allows clients to work on their goals at their own pace and in the way that they want — not in a way that we prescribe. We support each client’s agency and decision-making process. I think that’s what ensures that the changes they make in their lives are sustainable.”
Miller adds that just because a client finds a home or lands a job doesn’t mean they no longer require counseling or support. “Maintaining these things is as challenging as anything else,” Miller says. “I can’t think of anybody I’ve encountered — regardless of where I’ve seen them or what stage of life they’re in — who accomplishes something and then the story’s over.”
(415) 487-0691 x101
Executive Director: Artavia Berry
At The Crossroads reaches out to homeless youth and young adults at their point of need, and works with them to build healthy and fulfilling lives. By bringing our services directly onto the streets, we cultivate long-term, unconditional relationships with young people who would otherwise be disconnected from consistent support.
We empower our clients to accomplish their individual goals, build community, pursue their passions, and find their own paths to happiness and stability. We believe that there are no limits to what our clients can achieve, and that everyone deserves the chance to build an outstanding life.
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“The Five Bridges Foundation provides financial and consultative support to nonprofit organizations in the Bay Area who have a core mission of supporting TAY youth. We have partnered with ATC for over a decade as they have shown their unwavering commitment to helping the most vulnerable and at-risk segment of this population. Their commitment to meeting their clients ‘where they are’ and to truly cultivating personal connections that let the individuals know they are heard, valued, and have an advocate in their corner is, we believe, the first and most crucial step towards positive outcomes. We are excited and proud to continue our partnership in the years to come.”
Help Young People Find Housing — And Thrive in Life!
To celebrate their 25th anniversary, At The Crossroads is raising $25,000! This support will be earmarked for new client centered solutions and to expand to new outreach routes.
ATC clients shared their own ideas and solutions for homelessness during a special focus group this year. With your support, ATC will pilot two of their ideas in 2023, further centering client voices in their work.
As they walked their traditional routes, ATC Outreach Counselors noticed the pandemic displaced many people into different areas of the city. With your support, in 2023 ATC will explore and expand to new outreach routes.
Due to the many obstacles that come along with government funding, ATC focuses primarily on donors like you to support their unique approach. In fact, only 6% of their $1.2M budget comes from the government. This allows them to keep their services individualized and client centered; and also allows them to focus on partnering with community members like you to solve homelessness with compassion.
Your support this year will help build a Bay Area where our unhoused neighbors have the support they need to thrive.
The Moca Foundation
Five Bridges Foundation
Bella Vista Foundation
Full Circle Fund
Illinois No. 3 Foundation