Overwhelmed by difficult family circumstances, stress, and emotional pain, Anabel felt she had no support and didn’t see the light at the other end of the tunnel. Feeling empty and alone, this 15-year-old from Anaheim began to self-harm, eventually taking pills with the goal of ending her life.
Unfortunately, Anabel’s story is echoed in the emotional turmoil felt by many teens in Orange County. But, fortunately, this was not the end of her story.
Her attempt at self-harm resulted in a three-week psychiatric hospital stay, where Anabel heard about an organization called Waymakers. She made the decision to accept the offer of services through the residency program at Waymakers’ Tustin Youth Shelter, and her life began to change. For the first time in her life, it was OK to feel mad, feel sad, and have true emotion around her circumstances. It was OK to want to be alone, it was OK to talk and just have someone listen in return.
Thanks to the programs, staff, and counselors at Waymakers, Anabel not only found her own sanctuary, but she also learned real tools and skills to use when times get tough at home. Anabel shared, “When I get mad, I’ll remember to go outside, take deep breaths, draw, paint, read, play cards, talk to someone, cry, journal—and I know if I need it, I’ll always have a place to call.”
Waymakers’ shelters are more than just a place to stay for young men and women like Anabel—they provide a safe, accepting, and positive space for homeless, runaway and at-risk youth 24/7, 365 days a year. Without our intervention, children suffering with mental health issues, unstable housing and severe family conflict are more at-risk for victimization and out of home placement. The shelter programs serve as a 24-hour family crisis resource to parents and youths residing in Orange County, especially those who do not have the means to seek private help, with the goal of ultimately reuniting them with their families.
In June, we celebrated the 13th anniversary of the Huntington Beach Youth Shelter and the third anniversary of the Tustin Youth Shelter, and community members gathered to recognize the life-changing services they have offered to struggling youth in Orange County. Since opening its doors 13 years ago, our Huntington Beach Youth Shelter has helped over 1,600 homeless, runaway and struggling youth, and our Tustin Youth Shelter has helped 332 at-risk youth. Most of them are trying to cope with issues kids should never face, such as early-childhood trauma. Services also include individual, group and family counseling, support services, parenting education and referrals and linkage to mental health providers. By identifying and addressing the problems that hinder family success, the trained staff make successful reunification of families possible for over 90% of the children we serve.
*the name of the client has been changed for privacy.