By Ilana Gerjuoy, 4SC Coordinator
Community Action Youth & Workforce Development Programs staff have known for years that youth and young adults in our area need more free, welcoming places to hang out. Some youth would come to the Greenfield Youth Programs’ site as early as possible before programs started and stay as long as possible afterwards. A long-time dream of several Community Action staff, in conversation with youth, has been to offer drop-in spaces and services in addition to scheduled programs.
After a lot of work and thoughtful planning, this dream has become a reality! Dan Lionheart, a long-time staff member who has been an instrumental part of the process, invited me to come over to the Greenfield site and learn all about it!
A welcoming space
The Youth Programs site at 154 Federal Street is the homebase for many youth programs and workforce development staff. On a typical day, staff are working in office spaces in the building and meeting with groups and individuals, both virtually and in person. The new drop-in component is designed to make it easier for young people to connect with services and have a place to spend time outside of scheduled groups or events.
The drop-in space is in the lower level of the building and has a huge, cozy sectional sofa, a space for arts and crafts, and computers to use. It looks like a basement family room that you might find in a large home.
I was impressed by the many ways the space and services are set up to be inclusive, inviting, and to minimize barriers to participation.
- Open to everyone ages 14 – 24!
- No enrollment form needed to come by, enjoy the space, and access a variety of services.
- It’s a queer and trans affirming space, with Pride flags decorating the wall, gender-inclusive restrooms, and staff available to provide resources and support specifically tailored for LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults.
- Two staff are on site during open hours to offer support and resources and make sure it is a safe, comfortable environment.
- The space has a mix of open hours, some during the day and some after school:
- Greenfield Hours: Mondays 1 – 6 and Tuesday 2-7. And starting in January, Fridays 11-3. There is also a Northampton site with hours on other days.
- Location: 154 Federal Street at Community Action Youth Programs in Greenfield.
- If transportation is needed after spending time in the drop-in space or coming for a group, staff can often help assist with transportation needs. (Transportation does require an enrollment form, which the staff can help with as well. )
- Community Action Youth Programs also has restrooms, free hygiene supplies, menstrual supplies, and safer sex supplies (e.g. condoms and dental dams). And, of course, snacks!
Lots of options for activities and support
Youth and young adults who drop in have lots of options for things to do, including:
- Doing art or crafts projects with the wide variety of free art supplies (paint, colored pencils, tie dye, other fabric fun, and much more!)
- Playing games.
- Using Chromebooks and wifi available on site for job searches, resumes, school work, or socializing.
- Low barrier case management – A staff member can focus on whatever the young person is needing. It’s fine for someone to come in and set some goals in collaboration with a staff member or come with a request for help with a specific task.
- Learning about upcoming field trips, including those that foster intergenerational connections, like apple picking with the Rainbow Elders.
- Getting connected with other Community Action programs.
- Just hanging out!
What types of support services are available?
A lot of the support services relate to education and training, employment, and access to other resources. Some examples include referrals and help with transportation to mental health appointments or other health care, job applications, and signing up for college classes. Youth and young adults are encouraged to chat with staff about whatever is going on to figure out what will be helpful.
For queer and trans youth, staff are knowledgeable about things that may be particularly helpful, like where to get a gender-affirming haircut or access gender-affirming health care. There is also a corner with free gender-affirming clothes and accessories. Community Action has been doing queer and trans programming since 1994, so there is a huge amount of experience and institutional knowledge.
Staff members really enjoy welcoming youth and young adults to the space, so please spread the word to youth and young adults in your life! Share this article and the flyer above!
For more info, stop by or contact Dan by text (413-768-4159) or by email dlionheart “at” communityaction.us
Learn about Generation Q, a confidential educational and social/support group for LGBTQIA+ and questioning youth/young adults and allies ages 14 -24. Gen Q also offers opportunities for ages 10-13 through monthly intergenerational activities.
Read the 2022 Franklin County Parenting Guide article Support Systems Are Important for Transgender Youth, Teens, Young Adults, and Their Parents. Michael Reardon from the Greenfield Recorder shares the experiences of a local family and offers information about local and regional resources. Dan Lionheart was also interviewed for this article!