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Member Spotlight: Youth Services of Tulsa – Serving At-Risk Youth Since the 1960s

Youth Services of Tulsa has come a long way since opening as a coffee shop for homeless and at-risk youth in the late 1960s. Last year, YST assisted more than 17,000 of these individuals.

YST serves Tulsa area youth with programs in four major areas: Youth Development, Counseling, Delinquency Prevention, and Runaway and Homeless Services.

“As the only non-profit agency in Tulsa focused on youth ages 12-24, YST is uniquely equipped to assist youth and families in navigating the adolescent years,” says David Grewe, YST Executive Director.

YST seeks to empower its clients, providing them with the support and stability to achieve their potential. As a learning organization, YST harnesses the power of data. Outcomes, as well as the input of youth, their families, and the Tulsa community, shape the programs YST offers. Because of this, YST programs are recognized as national models for quality and creativity.

YST is perhaps best known in Tulsa for its 24hr/seven-day-a-week adolescent emergency shelter. The shelter is open to youth ages 12-18 who need a place to stay. Youth arrive at the shelter from a number of sources, including the Safe Place program, from schools, parents, other agencies, law enforcement, and of their own accord. The shelter can accommodate 20 individuals, and includes facilities for teenage parents if they arrive with their infants. Also provided are hot meals, clothing (if needed) and access to school.

Last year, the Shelter hosted 501 youth for 4,282 cumulative nights. Of those sheltered, 383 of them found safe placement after the crisis was resolved.

“Utilizing a strengths-based approach, YST staff engage youth in a helping relationship,” says Grewe. “Many times, adults will make a plan for youth. We make sure the adolescents we serve are involved in making their own plan.”

Many of those youth who stayed in the Shelter contacted YST via Safe Place, a national program dedicated to providing youth someplace to go and someone to help. The Tulsa Safe Place program is the largest in the nation. Youth in crisis can find a Safe Place at all Tulsa public libraries, fire stations, EMSA ambulances, Tulsa Transit buses, and QuikTrip locations. In 2015, more than 2,600 Tulsa-area youth learned about Safe Place, and 145 of them received help at a Safe Place location.

Though YST receives support through varied funding sources, there are still gaps. Every year, the organization hosts Blank Canvas as its primary fundraiser. This year, the event’s theme is the T-Town Throwdown. Two teams of chefs square off to create a four-course masterpiece. Sides will be taken, team colors donned, and a year’s worth of bragging rights are at stake.

If you would like to learn more about Youth Services of Tulsa, call 918.582.0061, or visit the organization at www.yst.org, or on Facebook.