Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, teenagers—like so many of us—have experienced mental health struggles. A nationwide study in 2020 found that 81 percent of teens said that mental health was a significant issue. Orange County has not been immune to the rise in intense stress, household conflict and uncertainty that resulted in teens seeking refuge in Waymakers’ shelters, which serve youths between the ages of 11 and 17 and their families.
Last year may have been unique, but our shelters stepping up most certainly is not. Waymakers’ youth shelters in Huntington Beach, Tustin and Laguna Beach provided support to more than 1,150 young people at any given time this year, many of whom have attempted or threatened suicide, live with severe family conflict or have experienced homelessness. The staff at Waymakers shelters stand ready to listen, provide comfort and offer critical tools to stabilize crisis situations.
Waymakers’ Huntington Beach and Tustin youth shelters—which both provide immediate short-term housing as an alternative to hospitalization for teens struggling with mental health issues, as well as runaway, homeless, abused and at-risk youth—are marking significant anniversaries this year.
Huntington Beach is in its 15th year of serving teens and families. Since the shelter opened in 2006, more than 1,800 young people have called the shelter home, and 90 percent were reunited with their families after their stays. Our Tustin youth shelter is celebrating five successful years of providing a safe space in a positive homelike setting to at-risk young people. In 2020 alone, our dedicated staff at Tustin served 470 young people.
The work Waymakers does makes an impact and here’s a testimonial from a parent of how we help those who have found their way and how we make things happen in Orange County:
“Thank you for helping my daughter during her 3-week visit at the Tustin Youth Shelter to overcome her anxiety and depression. You made her feel important and cared about each day. All of the projects, crafts, sessions, activities were wonderful for her. You gave her compassion, but didn’t let her get away with a thing. You encouraged her to do her best and to celebrate life. You encouraged her to help others and be thankful for the blessings in her life. School will continue to challenge for her, but Waymakers has given her the strength and tools to be successful. She needed this “reset” and fresh start. Please thank everyone who worked with her. I deeply appreciate all of the help.” -parent
We are beyond proud of the essential support and programming our shelters have continued to provide, pandemic or not. Congratulations and THANK YOU to our expert and caring staff members, along with all the volunteers and supporters for the life-changing work you continue to do, no matter what.