Justine was 12 years old when she fled to the streets to escape her mother’s boyfriend, who was regularly physically and verbally abusive. When it got worse and 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 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 and asked for help. She began selling jewelry to pay for her own rent and food. She enrolled in college and earned her bachelor’s degree; she is now in law school.

Transitional Age Youth (TAY), ages 16-25, are the most underserved of the entire 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 and distrustful 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 very quickly.

Doors of Change staff and volunteers reach out to homeless youth on outreach by 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, case management and housing, are also available.

Youth are incentivized to return – after attending 6 lessons they earn art supplies or a musical instrument: a guitar, ukulele, mandolin, keyboard, violin, drums, harmonica… whichever instrument they have learned to play. This approach makes all the difference in helping homeless youth. Not only have they earned something that provides an opportunity to earn income on the streets, but they have also learned to set and reach a goal. Many feel a sense of accomplishment for the first time in their lives. Furthermore, this approach has proven to build trust with homeless youth months sooner than traditional outreach alone.

Once they trust Doors of Change, homeless youth are receptive to case management services that help them obtain state ID, health care (including mental health referrals), 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 2,200 homeless youth get off the streets into safe housing.

Doors of Change will celebrate its 20th Anniversary of helping homeless youth at Bubbles & Brunch, a champagne brunch at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines on October 24. Community leader and philanthropist Kristi Pieper is the Chair of this signature event and is delighted to welcome you to join her. During the event a live auction will feature signed memorabilia from Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Isaak and others.

For more information visit www.doorsofchange.org.