On Saturday I had the day off, an unusual occurrence. I woke up and made cookies for a holiday cookie party in the afternoon, and then, still distracted by the festive smells of sugar and spice, I put the address to SPY, Safe Place for Youth, into my GPS and hit the road to attend the event which I had been invited to.
On the way I realized that I literally could have walked from home. And when I arrived, I discovered that it is in a building which I have driven by and walked by countless times before ~ and never noticed. This magical humanitarian place tucked away in plain sight. As I walked up to the door, I felt grateful to be invited to see what lay inside… and also curious about what other local philanthropic/community based treasures lie under my nose that I’m not aware of. The somewhat invisible web of like-minded people I’m surrounded by living in Venice, California.
I knew little about SPY before entering their space last week. Their mission is “is to inspire, nurture, and empower the resilient human spirit of homeless youth by providing immediate and lasting solutions, one young person at a time.” It literally shares some of the same language with our mission statement and certainly has loads of overlap conceptually.
These words are beautiful, yet they somehow still do not do justice to the love and conscientious strategies and resources that live behind those inconspicuous doors.
There are showers. Cots to nap on. A great healing art space. Accessible computers. Anything needed for personal hygiene. Delicious healthy donated food. Sports space intentionally situated as a low-pressure point of social access. Classes and resources to obtain GED and other degrees. Employment counseling and support. Case managers and onsite doctor and dentist at scheduled times. And devoted staff who are committed to giving space, voice, support, and skills to the local young homeless population.
I got an incredibly gracious behind the scenes tour of the small but well-equipped space, and I literally got choked up several times while seeing the details and hearing the stories, and seeing the thought and care put into the services offered. Thoughts of the many things that many of us so easily take for granted kept swarming my mind. For some of the people who use the space,, as young as 12 years old, the simple offer of a cot to take a nap in complete safety with no judgment, is something that can mean so much. The continuum of care can powerfully positively impact lives.
Before I left, I got to see some of the young people who use the space come in. To a safe space. A welcoming space. A space designed with their needs in mind. A place asking no intrusive questions or making any judgments. A place offering support and critical resources. A place to recharge if only for a brief time, but of course any time to rest and restore is invaluable, especially for folks who are struggling daily on the streets.
I’m adopted myself, and I won't go into my adoption story, but suffice to say that in many ways I was unbelievably lucky to be adopted as I was. I think this has given me a bit of a heightened sense of “there but for the grace of God go I”. Every time I see someone homeless I think that they are someone’s child. That we all are born with infinite potential. That we all want the same things. Safety, connection, acknowledgement, love, attention… and I want to do my part to help make anyone’s life a little lighter, more peaceful, more grounded and whole.
So Worthy Beyond Purpose is tremendously excited about this connection. And about the branches and roots of the kindred spirits/joint mission trees that we are starting to grow. As Joelle Dumas, the chair of the Education Committee of the Venice Chamber of Commerce so eloquently put it at one of our recent child-focused brainstorming sessions, we want to grow whole “forests” of this work. These metaphorical forests represent positive networks for children and young people, of people doing the work now to make our youth’s futures better.
And their present realities too.
I took this picture on the streets of Venice. More love always.