Spending the Holidays in a Shelter

Most of us are fortunate enough to have never experienced homelessness. The youth in our shelter can’t say the same. Right now, as you read this, there are local teens who have no idea they’ll spend Christmas with us; that’s how quickly circumstances can change.

Christmas at home is a time for family traditions, gifts, gatherings, and festive foods. Understandably the youth in our care have complex and mixed emotions about spending the holiday season with us. We see an increase in fights, runaways, oppositional behavior, and youth generally acting out as they wrestle with these complex emotions. Imagine being away from your family during the time of year when families are in focus. Kids feel angry, frustrated, and hope that maybe their Christmas wishes will be granted, and they will reunite with their families in time to spend Christmas morning at home. Disappointment is a part of their holiday when those expectations aren’t met.

Temara Carthens, with Act Together, has spent her last two holiday seasons taking care of youth in our crisis care shelter. “It’s an emotional roller coaster for all of us, youth and staff,” she said. “We get so many youths from different backgrounds with different traditions, and we try to make them all happy. Some are happy to be somewhere that cares and tries to provide a loving and positive experience. Some youth don’t care how much you give; they want to be at home with their family.”

“We get so many youths from different backgrounds with different traditions, and we try to make them all happy.”

At Act Together, we take care of kids. We try and offer our youth fun holiday experiences and the opportunity to make new, positive memories. And, of course, wrapped presents for everyone. Christmas isn’t only about gifts, but all kids love presents on Christmas day. Ruben Marion has been working with Youth Focus for over a decade and spent his most memorable Christmas at Act Together. “One year, a 13-year-old boy received an art set. He shouted out; This is the best Christmas I ever had! It reminded me of how easy it is to make a lifetime memory, to give a gift that can help a child cope with what may seem like the worst time of their life.”

Act Together is fortunate to be a part of a community like Greensboro, who is so very supportive of our youth and program. Every year Greensboro opens their hearts and purses to let homeless, neglected, and pushed-out kids know it cares. Greensboro cares so much that even if a kid shows up on Christmas Eve or Day, there are presents for them too. We try and make everyone feel loved and have full bellies, big smiles, and grateful hearts.

We do our very best to make sure that when our youth have grown, the Christmas they spent with us isn’t their worst, and they leave with one or two fond memories. Thank you for supporting us and loving these kids as much as we do.

To learn more about how you can help, please follow us on Facebook. If you’d like to donate to a teen’s Christmas, please visit us online or donate via Facebook.

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35th Anniversary of National Safe Place Week

TL; DR: Safe Place is a national program operated in Guilford County where any youth can walk into a building with a yellow sign on it and say, “I need help.” Within an hour a licensed and trained Youth Focus staff member is on site offering free help, shelter and advice. The Safe Place program is one of the only options for local youth who feel they have nowhere to turn that can connect youth with a continuum of services to take care of their immediate and future needs including emergency shelter, maternity housing, alternative schools and foster care.  We need your help publicizing this program so we can help more kids and enlist more Safe Place locations. 

If you’re a member of the media, we have a Program Director and youth who would love to speak with you!  You can check out a video of an amazing young lady we had the pleasure of serving here and email us to set up a time to talk more.

WHAT: 35th Anniversary of National Safe Place Week, March 17-23

WHO: Homeless and At Risk Kids (age 11-17) in Guildford County

WHERE: Free and immediate help at designated “safe” locations

Youth Focus, a Greensboro based non-profit dedicated to helping local youth, is celebrating National Safe Place Week March 17-23.

Safe Place consists of a national network of businesses and community locations, such as fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, fire stations, public buses and libraries, which display the Safe Place sign in their windows. As youth enter the designated Safe Places and ask for help, trained staff members connect them to the appropriate youth shelter for assistance. The Safe Place program, operated locally by Youth Focus, partners with businesses and community organizations such as to provide immediate safety and support for local youth. Local Safe Place locations include multiple fire departments, YMCAs, libraries and government buildings, as well as community businesses like Proehlific Park, Friendly Center, Four Seasons Town Center, Celebration Station and the Greensboro Sportsplex.

It is estimated that more than one million youth run away from home each year due to abuse, neglect, family conflicts and other issues. The Safe Place program and Act Together is one of the only options for local youth who feel they have nowhere to turn.

“The Safe Place program helped more than 250 youth alone last year, and Act Together was able to provide emergency shelter to another 183.  These are local youth, children ages 11-17, with nowhere else to go.   Our network of Safe Place locations provides an invaluable service to these children and the community, and National Safe Place Week is about recognizing the importance of their contributions,” said Jennifer Ravenel Lewis, Executive Director of Youth Focus.

If you’re a member of the media, we have a Program Director and youth who would love to speak with you!  You can check out a video of an amazing young lady we had the pleasure of serving here and email us to set up a time to talk more.

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Volunteer Opportunities: Fall and Winter 2018

It takes a village, and Youth Focus is appreciative of any and all community support. Individuals, groups and corporations are all equally appreciated and needed volunteers.  Volunteer opportunities vary based on our need, and your availability and unique skill set.  We are always in need of extra hands with open hearts.

Here is a list of our current, and most needed, Volunteer opportunities

STYLISTS and BARBERS needed!  We have a need for stylists who are willing to provide barber and hair-cutting services.  Please email us if you’re able to help.  

ARTISTS needed!  If you have the time and talent, we would love a new mural for ACT Together, our emergency housing facility for teens.  Help us create a positive and vibrant atmosphere by sharing your talents.  Email us to help!

Decorators and shoppers needed!  Our new TLP apartments need to be furnished for their new residents! Read more about this fantastic new program here, and email us to volunteer.

Party people! Our Supportive Housing Programs will be hosting a holiday party for residents.  We’re looking for volunteers to help on the night of November 30th.   Email us!



We also have a specific need for the following donations.

Adolescent Substance Use Program

  • Towels
  • Men’s clothing
  • Men’s hygiene products (deodorant, body wash, shampoo)
  • PlayStation 3 games
  • Board games
  • Workout equipment (free weights & any other gym equipment)
  • Dining room table and chairs set 
  • Men’s bicycles

Please email Rachael Landau to coordinate drop off at

ACT Together Emergency Shelter

  • Towels and washcloths
  • Small incentive items like bath & body products, makeup, lip gloss, chapstick, water bottles, full sized candy, gel pens, wired headphones, playing cards, etc.
  • Gift cards we can use to incentivize good behavior.  Favorites include Target, Walmart, Cookout and McDonalds.

ACT Together donations can be dropped off at 1601 Huffine Mill Road, Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm. Please ensure all donations are labeled to indicate it is for ACT Together, multiple programs are housed at this location.

 Residential Treatment Facility

  • MP3 players, iPods, etc.  The Residential Treatment program is a secure, locked facility where youth can safely receive treatment.  Youth often use music as a coping skill, especially being in a locked facility and having minimal other options some days. 
  • Blankets and twin sheets.  As temperatures drop, blankets are a needed.
  • Hygiene supplies: shampoo, deodorant, conditioner, soap  

Residential Treatment donations can be dropped off at 1601 Huffine Mill Road, Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm. Please ensure all donations are labeled to indicate it is for the Residential Treatment center, multiple programs are housed at this location.

My Sister Susan’s House, Maternity and Young Mother’s Housing

  • Diapers size 1 and 4, wipes
  • Incentive items like gift cards to Target, Walmart, Rainbow (clothes store) and  Plato’s closet.

Donations can be dropped off at our administrative office, 405 Parkway A, Monday through Thursday from 8am to 7pm.  Please label your donation for My Sister Susan’s House.

Transitional Living Program

  • Household decor and items to furnish our youth’s new apartments
  • Incentive items, like gift cards to Target, Walmart, Cookout, McDonalds, KFC, Chic-fil-A
  • A bookshelf, any size, to help us organize.

Donations can be dropped off at our administrative office, 405 Parkway A, Monday through Thursday from 8am to 7pm.  Please label your donation for TLP.

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Program Spotlight: Structured Day

The Structured Day Program is an outpatient, day treatment program for youth in middle and high school with moderate to severe behavioral problems.  While enrolled, youth receive academic, psychiatric, individual and group counseling. Students receive full academic credit and transportation is provided.

Youth Focus is one of few nonprofit organizations that offer an alternative school environment where kids like Sam can continue their education while working on behavioral problems in a supervised environment.

Sam, a 13 year old in 7th grade, has been suspended from school 11 times for reasons ranging from disobedience in the classroom to vandalism of school property. The final straw for his school principal was a fist fight he instigated with a classmate during class instruction time. At their wit’s end, administrators were left no choice but to expel him from school and ban him from campus.

For kids like Sam, options are limited; how does he continue his education?

How do his parents or caretakers provide restorative ways to tame his temper? What, after all, is the root of his behavior? Youth Focus is one of few nonprofit organizations that offer an alternative school environment where kids like Sam can continue their education while working on behavioral problems in a supervised environment.

Mental health technicians are assigned to each middle and high school class, where they assist students to stay focused and on task, as well as encourage good behavior.

The Structured Day program is a day treatment program specifically designed for middle and high school students with moderate to severe behavioral problems. Many students like Sam who attend Structured Day have at least one diagnosis related to behavior, such as oppositional defiance disorder, ADHD, PTSD, or other various mood disorders. In Sam’s particular case, he struggles with a slight cognitive delay and learning challenges. Because he is also exposed to violence at home, he has not developed healthy coping skills. Coupled with oversized classrooms and more individualized needs, kids like Sam are often not given the attention they require to succeed academically, and therefore begin to disrupt the learning environment. They are often written off as ‘bad kids.’ While Individualized Education Plans are not required to attend Structured Day, a thorough, documented history of behavioral problems at the child’s home school is required for consideration for the program.

Sam just reached his first level 4 status, signifying good behavior and participation, and was able to go on a recent outing to the Science Center.

At Structured Day, students receive full academic credit while attending the program. In addition, they also receive group and individual counseling, as well as any psychiatric treatment. Attendance, behavior, and participation are tracked with a points system. Levels are reached as points accumulate, and rewards and privileges, such as outings, special snacks or candy, and gift cards are given as prizes. 

Sam’s success goes beyond earning points; he’s learning grade level academics in a small group setting with a qualified teacher, which enables him to retain the curriculum. He is also learning healthy ways to interact with other students rather than fighting or arguing. Mental health technicians are assigned to each middle and high school class, where they assist students to stay focused and on task, as well as encourage good behavior. These encouragements might include prompts or positive reinforcement, and techs are responsible for the points system in which the behavioral levels operate.

Sam hopes to return to his home school next year. His family, therapists, and teachers have worked closely with him to develop a plan that will bring him closer to that goal each week. While his home life has not improved, he is working on developing more constructive ways to cope with stress at home, and his behavior has reflected that effort while at the program each day. Not every day is perfect; recently he tried to instigate a fight with a new student at Structured Day. However, after a brief huddle with his mental heath tech and the assistant program director, he was able to re-join his class and finished out the rest of his day without incident. It was the first time that he was able to be verbally de-escalated before a fight occurred. Sam continues to make improvements each week, which puts him on track to return to his home school next year.

For more information on the Structured Day program at Youth Focus, click here.  

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Program Spotlight: Residential Treatment Center

It is 7am, and Sue has been awake for hours after waking from a nightmare. At Youth Focus’ Residential Treatment Center, she is supervised around the clock by specially trained staff. For the first time in her life she doesn’t feel alone when she wakes up with night terrors.

Sue is challenged with severe depression and bipolar disorder. Her chronic self-harming behavior, which included cutting her arms and legs, along with violent behavior towards her teachers and peers at school, led her to the RTC for supervised treatment. She has been to several group homes and different schools, and at her last group home she attempted suicide, and had to be physically restrained. A more intensive treatment program was required to meet her needs.

Sue looks forward to breakfast at RTC, she rarely ate well-rounded meals. Her daily medication is then given by the staff nurse, and she attends the center’s in-house school until lunchtime. After lunch, she heads to group activities, such as therapeutic yoga, diversity group, or peer government. She also makes her daily call to her mom to check in and say hello. After some quiet time, either reading or watching a movie, dinner is served. Chores are a mandatory part of living at RTC, and she spends some time folding towels before heading to her room to tidy up and get ready for bed. This kind of routine gives Sue stability and predictability, both of which decrease her anxiety and mood swings tremendously.

Sue’s behavior upon arrival to the RTC was combative, defiant, and unpredictable. She experienced extreme highs and lows due to her bipolar disorder, and the lows led to depressive and suicidal thoughts and ideation.

Within the first month arriving at the center, her incidents of suicidal behavior decreased significantly; Sue has not had an incident in weeks.

Her anticipated stay at RTC is six to ten months, at which time she hopes to be reunited with her family rather than moving to a group home. This would not have been possible before beginning treatment at RTC.

In addition to her decrease in suicidal thoughts and behavior, Sue has also become more sociable and now participates in group activities with enthusiasm. Her history with peers in the past was almost always defensive, or even aggressive, in nature stemming from her sense of abandonment relating to her troubled home life. When first arriving at the center, she isolated herself by sitting alone, refusing to participate in activities, and starting fights with other clients. Recently, however, she has been observed laughing and chatting with other clients during free time.

While every client’s story is different, and every treatment plan is customized for their particular needs, our hope is that all of our clients experience a level of success while under our care.

This is one of many success stories stemming from various programs offered by Youth Focus.  The Residential Treatment Center is our most intensive program, and clients live there during their treatment. These clients need the highest level of supervision and care.

The Youth Focus’ Residential Center is a 12 bed psychiatric residential treatment facility for male and female adolescents age 13 to 17. This program helps young people who suffer from severe emotional and/or behavioral problems and cannot be treated successfully through outpatient counseling, group home placement or other, non-secure methods.  Offering an on-site classroom and intensive individual, group and family therapy, Youth Focus’ Residential Center treats young people with depression, anxiety, severe stress, self-defeating behaviors, disorganized thinking, oppositional defiant behavior as well as other behavior and psychological issues.  If you feel that a child you know might benefit from our services, click here to learn more.

*Names and details have been changed to protect the anonymity of our clients.

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A month to focus on fighting for foster kids all year

Making sure that all children have a permanent and loving home is one of Youth Focus’ top priorities. And, since May is “National Foster Care Month,” what better time to have a conversation about this critical issue?

Child development experts agree that having a permanent home and family is key for a child to grow into a healthy and productive adult. When a child grows up in an environment with an adult who is committed to their long-term well-being and on whom they can depend, the child is simply in a better position to thrive.

Unfortunately, too many foster children lack this basic and stable environment to begin their lives and enter the foster care system because of parental abuse, neglect or abandonment. Removing a child from their home can be devastating and confusing for a child of any age, but the more a foster care child is moved within the system, the greater the chance that the child will lose contact with siblings, other family members, and other friends and adults who have been important in their lives—including neighbors, coaches and religious leaders.

Youth Focus works to find positive outcomes for every young person in foster care and to promote a successful transition to adulthood for older foster children who are becoming adults. Through reuniting foster children with their parents and working with guardians who are committed to caring for foster youth, we are finding successful ways to bring foster youth into stable homes where they have better chances of thriving.

Although we specifically recognize Foster Care Month during May, ensuring that all kids have a stable place to grow up is something that we are working on year round. We have made improvements for foster youth, but we still have much work to do to make sure these kids have the best possible life that they deserve.

Our future depends on it.

For more information about foster care, please click here.
For more information on becoming a foster parent, please click here.


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Lost In America

Lost In America is a feature documentary that follows director Rotimi Rainwater’s journey of shining a light on youth homelessness in America. This film takes an all-encompassing look at this pandemic highlighting issues like: human trafficking, the foster care system, youth rejected because of their sexuality, domestic violence, abuse, and more. It also examines what many organizations, politicians and other public figures are doing (or not doing) to help these youth. 

Then moving beyond that – focusing on more than just politics, more than just society’s feelings towards these youth, more than funding and bureaucracy, what lies at the heart of Lost in America is the stories of our YOUTH. These are amazing individuals that are not defined by their circumstance, but are defined by their courage, their resilience, and their desire to grow and succeed.  Their search for love and acceptance,  and need to find their place in this world makes you realize that they are no different from your children. These children who, by a variety of reasons, have found themselves living on the streets and searching for help.

Through Rotimi’s personal connection with these youth, we take an inside look at who they are and what their lives are truly like. We explore the reasons why they ended up on the streets, the issues they face, and the things they have to do to survive. These youth are not outcasts, invisible children that are meant to be forgotten. They are our future, they are our hope, and by illuminating their stories we hope to serve as a catalyst for change, making these youth no longer… Lost in America.

Learn more at

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Given the current state and local guidelines for COVID-19, Youth Focus has temporarily suspended all on-site visitors and volunteers. This does NOT include clients or those accompanying clients to appointments. Those coming on-site will be asked to wear a mask for the duration of the appointment and limit the number of accompanying guests. Thank you for your understanding and commitment to the safety of our youth and staff.