Written by: Karen Sieve, Regional Safe Place Manager, Youth in Need
Summer is around the corner. Memorial Day means public pools are opening, and temperatures are warming up. Summer is an important time for youth outreach. Schools, which provide structure and additional supports throughout the fall, winter and spring, are not in session. Children, teens and those who care about them are looking for fun activities to keep them occupied and out of trouble. As temperatures heat up, however, many young people opt to stay indoors and find themselves home alone. This can make outreach a challenge.
During this tricky time, what does Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team do? Here are few tips to get you started.
Go to where the youth are. Reach out to YMCAs, scouting groups, churches, community parks and other organizations that offer summer camps and other organized activities. They may be looking for fun and educational activities to keep youth engaged. Community parks and rec centers provide space and a variety of opportunities for young people to swim, jump rope, and play basketball, soccer, baseball, ping pong and pool. They may have areas designated for teens to hang out and watch movies or use the Internet. Parks and other public venues often offer summer concerts where youth tend to mingle. Most parks provide plenty of shade, so youth can hang out under pavilions or trees to keep cool. Be sure to have plenty of outreach cards and resource information on hand for distribution. Bring along hygiene kits (with small bottles of sunscreen) and bottled water as well. Indoor skating rinks offer an additional fun option for young people to gather, listen to music, hang out, and stay cool. Most libraries provide a cool place to read and offer free computer access. Introduce yourself to library staff. Let them know how you can help young people so they can refer youth and turn to your agency as a resource.
Now is also a good time to check community calendars for upcoming festivals and fairs. If possible, team up with another youth program within your agency so your agency is not only represented at a booth, but also available to walk around and meet youth, families and other participants. Distribute outreach cards and resource information, and have hygiene kits (with small bottles of sunscreen) and bottled water available as well.
Bring the youth to you. Consider teaming up with your Safe Place partners to offer fun events that will bring youth to you. For example, ask your local fire departments to turn on water hydrants for a quick and fun cool down on hot summer days.
Team up with community partners. In previous years, Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team hosted a free back-to-school barbeque and grilled hotdogs and burgers. Ask your community partners to co-sponsor the event and provide donations of chips, sports drinks, soft drinks, bottled water, ice cream and school supplies. Ask your local radio station to broadcast, or if they are not available, bring your Bluetooth speaker and play some tunes.
Utilize social media. Promote these events and your agency’s whereabouts on social media. Youth In Need’s Street Outreach team has a Facebook page that is popular among youth in our community. Additionally, Facebook Live can be a fun way to inform and engage youth in what your team is doing and how you can help. Facebook offers some great tips to get you started, https://live.fb.com/tips/.
Summer presents a unique set of challenges for outreach staff. The key to reaching youth is creativity, flexibility and utilizing existing partnerships and social media to stay connected.