Waymakers Huntington Beach Youth Shelter turns 15
The home is nestled in a peaceful area of Huntington Beach, with Central Park to the west and the Sports Complex to the south.
Special stepping stones line the property’s backyard, each designed by a youngster who was helped by the Huntington Beach Waymakers Youth Shelter.
The refuge celebrated its 15th anniversary on July 1. Breanna Ballard is just one of more than 2,000 customers aged 11 to 17 who have been served since it opened in 2006.
Ballard, now 19, stayed at the shelter for the typical three-week period in 2018 after experiencing family issues. When it was time for her to move on, Nancy Galeana of Waymakers helped Ballard make the transition to a foster home.
Three years later, Ballard had his own home in Los Angeles and attended Glendale Community College. She is studying psychology, which makes her laugh because she realizes the irony.
“I had decided that I was not coming home and that something had to change,” Ballard said. “Nancy was the first person who really listened to me about everything that was going on at home. It was difficult and scary to go through, but in the end it got me where I am now. “
Galeana, co-director of the Huntington Beach refuge, considers Ballard a success. Galeana has been in the establishment for 12 years now. She and Isabel Kluwe, a licensed clinical social worker, became her co-directors when Elsa Greenfield retired earlier this year.
“Elsa wore all the hats,” said Kluwe, who lives in Huntington Beach. “The idea of filling these shoes seemed incredibly overwhelming. With his retirement, this offered an opportunity to restructure a bit. “
Waymakers operates three youth shelters in Orange County. The Laguna Beach location was founded in 1979 and the Tustin location in 2016. Huntington Beach has some differences from its sister facilities.
For one thing, the Waymakers Huntington Beach Shelter can accommodate 12 youth, six boys and six girls, which is more than the six youth that Laguna Beach and Tustin can each accommodate. Galeana also said the Huntington Beach site – formerly operated by Community Service Programs Inc. – also looked after runaway and homeless children.
Carol Carlson, who is the program director at the Laguna Beach and Tustin sites, is also the director of the children’s residential crisis program.
“A lot of times we get kids from other states because they run away and come to Beach City, United States,” Galeana said. “They get stranded several times, so we help them get home with the runaway component of the program. “
Waymakers kept its shelters open and fully staffed during the coronavirus pandemic, which Carlson said has been crucial for the at-risk children served.
“The pandemic has increased their isolation, depression and anxiety,” she said. “It also brought to light their fractured support systems at home. Many of their parents were also struggling with their jobs or sometimes illnesses in their families. Many of our clients have lost a family member to COVID, so that stress and heartache was first and foremost on them.
“When you’re in a crisis, you’re better off when you have people to talk to,” she continued. “They couldn’t go to school and they couldn’t see their friends, so they became even more isolated. The opening of youth shelters was really important.
Carlson said she hoped that with the pandemic easing and the state reopening, volunteers can return to homes.
The Huntington Beach youth shelter did not celebrate its 15th anniversary last week, beyond a few social media posts.
“We need to contain space as much as possible, reduce the risk of any kind of [coronavirus] epidemic in the house, ”Kluwe said.
Still, Waymakers relies on help from the community to make things work, in addition to federal and county funding and various grants.
Waymakers raised $ 240,000 at their charity golf tournament on May 20 at the Strawberry Farms Golf Club in Irvine. The next big fundraiser is the Light a Light of Love snowflake ceremony, Galeana said, scheduled for Dec. 5 at the Huntington Beach Pier.
Those interested in donating can often find the needs listed on the shelter’s website or Instagram account or call the shelter at (714) 842-6600.
Carlson has said so far that more than 9,000 children have been helped between the three homes. During the pandemic, more than 52,000 hours of counseling were recorded in Huntington Beach between April 2020 and the end of May of this year.
The Waymakers staff still look forward to many years to come.
“I love what we’re doing here,” Galeana said. “I believe in the mission to help young people in difficulty. It is certainly very enriching. I know we can’t completely change everything young people go through, but it’s definitely a place they can come and have that space for themselves.
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