Notre Dame helps the Youth Service Bureau to serve youth in crisis

Author: Erin Blasko

Over The Edge 2020 442

Founded in 1972, the Youth Service Bureau of St. Joseph County provides support for teens and young adults in crisis, outfitting them with the tools and resources necessary to build self-sufficient and successful lives.

To that end, the South Bend-based nonprofit operates an emergency youth shelter, a young moms’ self-sufficiency program, two transitional living programs, a street outreach program and a drop-in center for abused, neglected and homeless youth.

It also supports development services for students in the Penn-Harris-Madison school district.

“YSB exists primarily to serve youth in crisis,” said Kristin Michel, president of the YSB board of directors and pre-award program manager for Notre Dame Research. “We try to move teens and young adults from surviving to thriving.”

The organization works closely with a variety of corporate and nonprofit partners to serve local youth.

This includes the University of Notre Dame, which, through the Office of Public Affairs and Center for Social Concerns, provides financial and other support to YSB as part of its commitment to community engagement and the common good.

Notre Dame is a consistent sponsor and source of volunteers for YSB programs and events, including its annual dinner and its Over the Edge event, in which people pay to rappel down a tall building in South Bend.

In addition:

• The Center for Social Concerns partnered with YSB to raise awareness of youth homelessness through a documentary and public lecture.

• The Mendoza College of Business included YSB in its pilot board member fellows program. It also assisted YSB in developing a social enterprise plan for its new campus, which is under development.

• The Holy Half Marathon, a student-run charity event, donated proceeds from the event to YSB in 2017.

• The Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend, a partnership with Notre Dame, assisted YSB with surveying local students about access to mental health services. It also assisted YSB with street outreach.

• Philanthropy and the Common Good, a community-based philanthropy course, awarded $20,000 to YSB for shelter costs in 2021.

• The Office of Public Affairs provides tickets to YSB youth to attend Notre Dame sporting events, including football and basketball games.

Dave Lassen is director of community-engaged learning at the Center for Social Concerns, which counts YSB among its community partners.

“We enthusiastically support the mission of the YSB. Their work with marginalized youth in the South Bend area fits well with the Center for Social Concerns’ mission to pursue justice and the common good through community engagement inspired by a commitment to human dignity,” Lassen said. “The staff at YSB share a similar commitment to these principles and manifest it by providing services for youth who are in crisis. Their commitment to go into the community to proactively identify and connect with youth in need of support is an essential resource in the South Bend area.”

Notre Dame faculty and staff have also served on the YSB board over the years. This includes, currently, Michel, as well as Andrew Wendelborn, assistant dean of undergraduate studies at Mendoza.

“It’s a really well-rounded relationship,” said Jennifer Pickering, executive director of YSB. “It’s not strictly volunteer and it’s not strictly financial.”

It’s also an important “vote of confidence,” Pickering said, because of Notre Dame’s reputation and the trust that it generates in YSB and its mission.

Said Michel, “I don’t think we could do what we do without Notre Dame.”

Looking ahead, as it marks 50 years in the community, YSB is finalizing plans for a new campus on donated land near the northwest corner of Hickory Road and McKinley Avenue in South Bend.

The Center for Youth Success will include a Safe Station with as many as 16 emergency shelter beds; a street outreach/drop-in center; four dorm-style rooms for individuals; four dorm-style rooms for mothers and children; education and recreation areas; and a commercial kitchen for preparing healthy meals and offering training to youth in the culinary arts.

Among other things, the new 20,000-square-foot facility will consolidate YSB’s operations, currently spread among multiple sites across South Bend, to a single location, allowing for operational efficiency and better collaboration among staff.

“For most of our history we  have been located in three separate buildings across the South Bend area,” with different programs in each building, Pickering said. “And while they have served us very well, none of them are designed to do the work that we’re doing. So it literally is life-changing for us, and a dream come true, to think about bringing all of these programs together.”

While Notre Dame is not directly involved in the new campus, its ongoing support for YSB will help to ensure its short- and long-term success, Pickering said.

Said Tim Sexton, associate vice president for public affairs at Notre Dame, “Community engagement is a key component of our overall mission at Notre Dame, rooted in a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good. This is especially true as it relates to the health and welfare of teens and young adults, who represent the future of our community. We are proud to support the Youth Service Bureau and the important work that they do to support abused, neglected and homeless youth to lead wholly independent, successful lives.”