Imagine a teenage boy being moved into a dorm style environment, that may be the typical size of a dorm, but it is more of a barracks where you sleep with 6 other youth. Your belongings are limited to what can fit in a 20-gallon storage bin.
Across the hall is a similar room. Together, you all share a bathroom. This is the situation in one of the homes operated by Tidewater Youth Services Commission. It is not ideal, but for the youth residing there, it is better than being in juvenile detention.
What makes it tolerable is the staff. From center directors like Mr. Carlos to cooks like Ms. Paula, it is clear that these people care about these youth. Like any teenager, they push the limits, but the staff is there to provide guidance through a strong routine, discipline, and regularly remind them that they are worth a second chance. Despite the environment, these youth begin to believe it and leave their time with TYS with a new attitude and understanding that there are people that care.
The Commission currently owns three homes in Hampton Roads, along with four apartments that are used as part of the independent living training. Through these homes and apartments, the commission can serve up to 48 youth at a single time.
Over the past year, the commission has served over 200 youth through its facilities. Over ten thousand youth have spent time in these facilities since the 1980s. That is a great deal of teenage wear and tear on these buildings. Since the start of their operation, the commission has received limited funding to update and maintain these homes. As a result, these facilities are in need of significant updates and repairs to serve the youth.
A board member explains it well when he discusses his evaluation of a recent tour, “I didn’t know what to expect. I know none of these facilities are ideal. Let’s be candid though, the conditions these young people are coming from aren’t ideal either.”
We regularly tell our youth “You are worth a 2nd chance.” However, we put them in buildings with roof leaks, stained carpets, and computers sitting on top of ice makers. – Rodney Spears
Our board member continues to share, “Inside Westhaven seemed drab to put it nicely, dilapidated to be more accurate.”
It is difficult to help the youth understand they are valued when their environment is in disrepair. However the board member explains, “the people make up for what the space lacks.” He further adds, “The fact that Carlos [Westhaven Home Director] and the rest of the staff are able to have successful outcomes despite the shortcomings of the housing itself is remarkable.”
The Tidewater Youth Services Foundation is the charitable arm of the commission. As a registered 501(c)3 organization, funds raised by the commission support the youth and their families in ways that help them keep moving forward and from further entanglements with the law or other unnecessary challenges.
Public Private Partnership
The Commission and the Foundation work together to care for the youth in their care. The Commission provides the sustenance, what is needed to live. The Foundation provides the lifestyle and the opportunities we all live for. This is illustrated in the columns below.