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Monday, May 9, 2011

Advocating for Sonoma County Youth

By Caitlin Childs
Founded in 1971, Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) is a non-profit organization providing counseling, crisis and community programs to youth and families throughout Sonoma County.

There are an estimated 1,100 homeless youth in Sonoma County, and more than 40 youth age out of foster care each year in Sonoma County. SAY’s crisis programs focus on these vulnerable youth populations and offer support and hope to youth who need it most. In Santa Rosa, SAY operates the Dr. James E Coffee House Teen Shelter, the county’s only 24/7 teen shelter. SAY also operates the Mary and Jose Tamayo House, a transitional housing program for youth who have aged out of foster care and need safe, stable housing and support in finding employment and continuing their education.

With so many youth estimated to be homeless it is no wonder that the Street Outreach team at the Coffee House Teen Shelter served more than 1,123 meals to hungry youth in 2010. That same year, counselors at Coffee House were able to safely reunite 93% of the youth who stayed at Coffee House with their families.

Another core program at SAY is mental health counseling. In Santa Rosa SAY offers free counseling for MediCal eligible youth ages 4-25, and our counselors fill a gap by providing counseling to youth in Healdsburg, Cloverdale and Sonoma Valley high schools. Our counselors work with youth and families to enhance communication skills, and challenge each individual to engage in activities and relationships that encourage discovery and development of their own unique talents, strengths, and abilities.

Recently, SAY began offering low-cost anger management and diversion groups for teens ages 13-18 who need help addressing social skills, dealing with feelings, finding alternatives to aggression, dealing with stress, and decision making.

SAY’s community programs include our Youth Employment Center in Santa Rosa and a tutoring program in the Sonoma Valley. Youth Employment Center staff help youth write resumes, teach job interviewing skills, offer career and education workshops and provide job referrals. In Sonoma, our Opportunities Now program offers counseling and tutoring to help youth achieve their GED or diploma.

Last year, our staff served approximately 6,000 individuals across Sonoma County at one of our five locations. We serve the Santa Rosa area at our main office, the Coffee House Teen Shelter, and Tamayo House, the North County at our office in Healdsburg, and the Sonoma Valley at our office in Sonoma.

The Coffee House Teen Shelter is located at 1243 Ripley Ave. in Santa Rosa, their crisis hotline number is (800) 544-3299. To find out more about SAY’s general programs and services, please visit or call (707) 544-3299.