Justine was 12 years old when she fled to the streets to escape her mother’s boyfriend, who was physically abusing her. When he started to take off her clothes, she decided to chance life on the streets. When Doors of Change met her four years later, Justine had already attempted suicide twice. She could not envision a better life for herself, and she trusted no one. For a month, she watched warily as homeless youth like herself participated in art and music lessons offered by Doors of Change. Finally, she asked to participate in an art class, and it changed the trajectory of her life. She began to trust Doors of Change. She began selling jewelry to pay for rent and food. She enrolled in college and earned her bachelor’s degree; she is now in law school.
Transitional Age Youth (TAY), ages 17-25, are the most underserved of the homeless community and yet this pivotal age presents tremendous opportunity to prevent a lifetime of homelessness. With adult compassion and guidance, these youth can complete their education, get jobs, get off the streets, and build a life filled with hope and opportunity.
Nearly all homeless TAY are traumatized due to the abuse, rejection and victimization they have endured. As a result, lack of trust is the greatest barrier to helping them. The Doors of Change Taking Music & Art to the Streets (TMATS) program is uniquely successful in building trust with homeless youth quickly. Doors of Change staff and volunteers reach out to homeless youth, offering snacks, water and other necessities. Youth are invited to attend TMATS, where they receive a meal and art or music lessons. Wraparound services including clothing, haircuts, and case management are also available.
Youth are incentivized to return – after attending 6 lessons they earn art supplies or a musical instrument whether a guitar, ukulele, keyboard, violin, harmonica whichever they have learned to play! Through this program, they learn to set and reach a goal. Many feel a sense of accomplishment for the first time in their lives. This approach has proven to build trust with homeless youth months sooner than traditional outreach alone.
Once trust is built, homeless youth are receptive to case management services that help them obtain ID, health care (including mental health), job training and housing. Doors of Change networks with a myriad of local community and government agencies to quickly get youth the help they need to get off the streets. “Since its inception in 2001, Doors of Change has helped more than 2,300 homeless youth get off the streets into safe housing. Music & Art is our Secret Sauce,” Jeffrey Sitcov, President & Founder shared with GB Magazine.
Grammy-nominated Three Dog Night will headline a Concert of Hope to benefit Doors of Change on June 30 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. The show promises to be a rockin’ fun night — the band’s many Top-40 hits include Eli’s Coming, Jeremiah was a Bullfrog, and One is the Loneliest Number – and is a great way to Celebrate the homeless youth being uplifted and empowered to build a life off the streets. Former homeless youth Nikki Johnson-Huston who is now an attorney and winner of 2021-2022 Ms. Universe, will share her amazing story. For more information or to buy tickets visit www.doorsofchange.org.