Gimme Shelter

Roberto Perez, 19, has been at Safe Passage since March. “It’s been good,” he says. “I feel safe.”

After the Monterey City Council voted 4-1 on July 1 to pass a sit/lie ordinance meant to keep homeless people from loitering or sleeping on city sidewalks, Councilmember Alan Haffa, the one dissenting vote, mentioned how many city beds are available to homeless youth: six.

“There’s definitely a need for a youth shelter,” says Robin McCrae, executive director of Community Human Services (CHS), a Monterey nonprofit that provides support to the homeless, addicted and mentally ill. “Youth [ages] 18 to 25 don’t feel safe in adult shelters. They get preyed upon.”

According to the 2013 Monterey County Homeless Census, the number of homeless people in Monterey jumped from 440 in 2011 to 542 in 2013. With homelessness increasing locally, more youth are left out in the cold.

During a recent visit to CHS’s Safe Place, a homeless youth drop-in center on Pearl Street, all three young people present reported spending their nights “in the forest.”

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As for the six beds Haffa referenced, they are at CHS’s Safe Passage. But they are not an option for those who might want only temporary shelter. Safe Passage is a transitional housing facility for youths aged 18-21 at time of admission. Admission requires participating in an action plan in which the youth set goals with counselors and commit to remaining drug-and alcohol-free on the premises. The program lasts 18 months.

As for the possibility of a drop-in youth shelter in Monterey, McCrae list familiar challenges.

“It’s always on the whiteboard,” she says. “It’s about creating the political will and the money to do it.”

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