More than just shelter

Youth Shelter Care in 2013 began offering mental health services to both its clients and the community, according to Jim Seward, YSC executive director.

Since 1979, the nonprofit has served as a mercy youth shelter.

“Shelter has always been our primary goal,” Seward said. “We have been housing youth for their safety until they move on to the next treatment, be it residential, be it a group home, foster care or other level of care.”

Offering mental health services, though, allows YSC to not only serve the community, but to better care for its clients, Seward said.

“With the mental health, we give them the option to see a therapist for mental health evaluations, which is sometimes ordered or asked from DHS (Department of Human Services) or JCO (Juvenile Court Offices),” he said. “Now we can do that in-house. Instead of driving them across town, we can walk them across the hall.”

The new service complements others offered at YSC.

“We allow them that time with a therapist to help them learn more about themselves, what causes the behaviors they do, their thought processes, their minds, their emotions,” Seward said. “We also now provide a mental health group, psychotherapy, three times a week on the shelter side, which brings a universe of hope, a cohesiveness of the group, of those kids, that they realize they’re not alone.”

The benefits of the added service are many for the shelter’s youths, Seward said.

“A lot of the kids that come in here, they’ve been hurt,” he said. “When they’re able to open up, even to strangers in a group setting, they realize that this peer has made it through a tougher situation than I’m in, and it gives them a sense of hope. That helps our programming, helps my staff dealing with some tough kids we have.”

With its new mental health services, YSC has redecorated. The walls have been painted a soothing blue and a reception area has been added.

“It’s a transformation,” Seward said. “The new painting to the new offices, the new staff that are in place, it’s just a reflection of our desire to treat the clients well. Our interest is what’s best for the clients. If we can create an atmosphere that’s warm, that’s welcoming, coupled with our caring spirit, then the clients are going to be better. Not only those in shelter, but also those who visit for mental health.”

Continuing forward, YSC has a special celebration planned for June.

“This year is our 35th anniversary,” Seward said. “I’m so excited about that. I know it’s going to be a big event. Not a lot of service agencies make it to 35 years, and we’re just happy to be one of them.”

Spring, Seward said, is always a stressful time at YSC, though, because of the Legislature.

“In the spring of 2012, the shelter lost $300,000 from the state budget, so we had to lose a bed. We went from 11 beds allocated for us to 10,” he said. “Last year, we gained a 5 percent increase per diem. So you just don’t know what the legislation is going to bring. I keep a watch on that weekly to see what’s happening in Des Moines because, in the end, we just don’t want to lose any more beds.”