Partnership will allow local homeless program to expand services

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The Berkeley-based youth outreach program Youth Engagement, Advocacy and Housing, or YEAH!, was recently acquired by Covenant House California, or CHC, combining the two agencies to make the largest shelter for homeless youth in the East Bay.

The agency is also moving from being a seasonal shelter to a year-round provider of beds and services for homeless youth. Through the acquisition, YEAH! will keep all original staff and programs, though it will become a program of CHC.

“This is a really exciting time for us as an organization,” said executive director of YEAH! Jaclyn Grant. “The expansion as we transition from seasonal to year-round is something our community has been working toward for a year, and the timing of being acquired by Covenant House only strengthens that expansion.”

After a year of advocating for an increase in funding, City Council voted to increase the program’s contracts with the city of Berkeley by a total of about $130,000. According to Grant, this increase in funds is what made the agency’s expansion into a year-round program possible.

Berkeley’s funding for YEAH! comes from the Mental Health Services Act, which was passed by California Legislature in 2004 and provides financial support for local mental health programs. According to city spokesperson Matthai Chakko, Berkeley has a mental health division, so it receives funding from the Mental Health Services Act directly and can distribute that funding to local programs and nonprofits.

YEAH! provides mental health services as well as shelter for homeless youth, and it also partners with various other organizations to provide different types of support, such as job training and long-term housing.

“What we find is that a lot of young people on the street experience a lot of stress and trauma from being out on the street, as well as often from their experiences before they were homeless,” Grant said. “Our mental health programs offer individual counseling as well as support groups.”

YEAH! serves a subset of the homeless population known as transition aged youths, defined as young people between the ages of 18 and 24. In Berkeley, this group makes up nine percent of the homeless population, with 47 percent of those people being unsheltered, meaning they do not have access to housing.

According to a press release from Covenant House, its acquisition of YEAH! will allow it to double the number of beds it can provide, with 60 beds dedicated to transition aged youth in the Bay Area.

“We believe that no young person deserves to be homeless, and YEAH! is the best at what they do in serving a very unique population of youth in the East Bay,” said the CEO of Covenant House California, Bill Bedrossian, in the press release. “So, we are thrilled to see how their expertise will enhance our capacity to better meet the needs of all homeless youth.”

Contact Anderson Lanham at [email protected].