On the surface, Doors of Change is a program that offers hope and resources to a often under-looked segment of the San Diego population, but you might wonder how a typical program is run or how you can help. We invite you to an insider look at a typical program and how this environment inspires change for homeless youth.
Every Thursday and Sunday at The Episcopal Church Center in Ocean Beach between 2:30 and 3pm homeless youth begin to gather for the Doors of Change program. The youth may have heard of our program through our outreach efforts or word of mouth from their friends. Newcomers and program veterans alike sign themselves in when entering the program, often greeted by Joanne Newgard our cheerful program director whom the youth love and respect. Many youth have lovingly called Joanne “momma” over the years.
Our program volunteers (or angels as we love to call them) help set up a tables designated for donated clothes, toiletries, laundry, dog food, water, snacks and an art table with a wide array of art supplies tailored to the art instruction of the day. Vulnerable youth are able to put their guard down and relax for the first time of the day once they walk through the doors. Many youth are accompanied by their dog companions and service animals. Some youth will help volunteers to set up the space for the program. Others will enjoy snacks and water and each other’s company while deciding between the art or music instruction for the day.
Talented musicians who volunteer as our music instructors will set up guitars, mandolins, violins, drums and keyboards in the music room and get ready to rock! The program will often kick off with a quick jam session of a familiar tune to get everyone in the mood to spark creativity and promote an environment of self-discovery. From there participants are encouraged to pair up with a musician for instruction or settle into the activities at the art table.
Homeless youth will typically arrive at the art table seeking peace and quiet, what they walk away with is so much more. Artistic expression can help to heal and empower. Youth can choose to work silently on their own artwork or share emotional connection and build trust with art instructors. The art instructor will choose a project for the day varying from painting to jewelry making or making a dream catcher. Youth often leave the class with art they can work on outside of class or sell if they choose to.
Music instruction can be a confidence building skill that promotes independence as well as discipline. For our homeless youth, music instructors can also serve as mentors who encourage growth and inspire change. Participants choose an instrument and are taught in groups or individually. Those who attend 6 classes of music instruction will earn an instrument of their choice which they can use to perform with and generate income for themselves.
Doors of Change provides many helpful resources that support homeless youth, from social services to mental health care. Our social services can provide the youth with IDs, bus cards, health insurance, food stamps and much more that can be hard to attain as an individual on the streets. We offer outlets for youth to be placed in housing or connect youth with the California Conservation Corps so they can earn a living while they learn skills that will shape their future. Youth who seek these services through Doors of Change are typically looking to lift themselves out of life on the streets. We offer hope that can inspire youth to transform their lives.
At the end of class instruction, the youth clean up their area and get ready for a hot meal prepared by Heartfelt Helpings. Heartfelt Helpings has been providing meals for homeless in San Diego since 2013. We’re so thankful to have amazing local partners who share the same goal to help those in need! Before every meal, Joanne or Jeffrey will lead the group in sharing important announcements and encouraging youth to sign in to every class to earn their instrument or art supplies. The group atmosphere is one of love and encouragement, everyone feels like family. Youth show up often exhausted and discouraged, but leave with positivity and hope. Many will hug to their instructors and thank volunteers before venturing back out onto the streets of Ocean Beach.
The group atmosphere is one of love and encouragement, it feels more like a family than a program especially to our youth who often have had a difficult upbringing. Doors of Change provides so much more than a meal, clothes and resources. We provide an outlet to promote hope and promote a transitional pathway out of adversity for homeless youth in San Diego. If you’d like to get involved and lend a hand, we can always use more Doors of Change angels to volunteer. Common donation items include, clothes, socks, toiletries, blankets and shoes. Donations are used to provide meals, sleeping bags, music instruments or art supplies. If you would like to learn more to contact us here.