On any given day in the U.S., thousands of teens go homeless and hungry. Too often, youth reach a breaking point, unable to face another day of school bullying, parental abuse, stress–or hunger. Yet when we think of homeless people, our minds often form the image of an older male adult curled up on a sidewalk or a park bench. Shockingly, 34% of homeless people in the U.S. are actually under 24 years of age. Which is why Casa Youth Shelter right here in our own community is such a significant, often lifesaving, resource.

The shelter houses 12 youth (aged 12 to 17) when at capacity, and in addition to offering a safe harbor and hot meals, they provide group activities, peer interaction and counseling services for both the youth and parents. Ideally, after spending time at the shelter, the residents return to their families or move on to a safe, crisis-free living situation. While at the shelter they are on temporary break from school, focusing on improving their situation and receiving the help they need. Some former residents continue with counseling services, and the services are offered remotely to nonresidents as well.

Recently, there has been a change in the typical resident profile, according to Josue Montenegro, a 7-year staff member. Many of the youth seeking safe harbor are transgender and have been rejected, bullied and abused by family and friends. For them particularly, a place to find support and to reset is essential. And it comes as no surprise that in this past year during the pandemic, teen depression and anxiety have skyrocketed, so Casa Youth has been an invaluable haven.

Food Finders has been partnered with the shelter for 20 years and donates wholesome food twice a week. The staff prepare meals, sometimes engaging and teaching the residents cooking skills, and generally ensures that everyone receives a healthy meal. Any excess donated food is made available via an onsite pantry, free to area families or youth in need.

Food Finders is so grateful to count Casa Youth Shelter as one of our many partners that help serve our local communities. Thank you for all you do!