In 2011, in Venice, California, group of dedicated volunteers began driving around a Southern California city and opening their car trunks to offer hot food, clothing, and dry socks to kids on the streets of Venice. Now, SPY (Safe Place for Youth) has grown to a professional team with a headquarters, expanded programs, and much greater impact in creating services (health and wellness, street outreach, employment, education, drop-in services, and more) and safe space for homeless young people.
The goal is to provide an empowering resource bank of services so young people can take control of their lives and not be defined by circumstances — all in a positive, non-judgmental environment. In 2015, nearly 1,000 youth received life saving support from SPY, including nearly 10,000 hot meals served, hundreds of medical consultations, 5,000 drop-in center visits, and 57 young people that exited homelessness and entered stable living situations.
As in the beginning, SPY still relies on the great hearts and work of volunteers. Check out opportunities to get involved in creating an end to youth homelessness, and also to support the deeply important work of Safe Place for Youth.
Photo: Adventures Cross-Country
Now is the time when families are making summer plans for vacations, camps, visits to family, and hopefully some meaningful volunteering. For teens who are looking for a giveback element to their summer blended with amazing travel and cultural experiences, Adventures Cross-Country is offering $1,000 scholarships toward the travel costs for volunteer trips.
For more than three decades, the company has been creating meaningful travel experiences for youth ages 13-19, and some highlights making me wish I was age-appropriate include: Thailand Elephant Service (volunteer in a hill tribe village, overnight at a monastery with Buddhist monks, learn Thai cooking, scuba dive, white water raft, and teach English), Costa Rica Service Ultimate (community service work with school children and rural farmers, white water raft, surf, patrol turtle nests, and build a community shelter), and Hawaii Service (help preserve natural and cultural environments, work with Boys & Girls club, surf, swim, hike).
Overall, they offer community service and immersion trips in 21 countries across six continents. That is SO much more life-altering and purpose-driven than the summers I spent working the drive through window at Carl’s Jr!