A place where troubled Oahu teens turn

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Feb 17 2014 05:25:00 PM HST

For nearly 25 years, it has been a place where Oahu's troubled teens have turned. KITV4's Paul Drewes goes to "YO" to see how it helps Hawaii's runaways.

HONOLULU -

For nearly 25 years, it is a place where Oahu's troubled teens have turned.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' report.

In busy Waikiki under the shadow of high-rises, a small cottage offers runaway teens a temporary sanctuary from life on the streets.

"What Youth Outreach is about is meeting your basic needs: food, clothing, hygiene supplies," said Youth Outreach coordinator Alika Campbell.

Each year, hundreds of teens use the Youth Outreach services, known as YO.

"They're a drastic help. They're the main reason why I'm alive," said 18-year-old Mia Santiago.
She moved to Hawaii in 2011.

"They sent me out here to reunite me and my mom. It was just really rough, so I gave up on it right away and just ran away," said Santiago.

The teen eventually ran to Waikiki, and now lives in a Kapahulu park.

"It is tough. It is mentally stressing 24/7," said Santiago.

The YO house isn't a homeless shelter, instead it is place for youths to hang out away from the stress and harassment.

Teens can wash their clothes, grab something to eat and get help with a state ID or even a GED.

Troubled youths often refuse traditional homeless services, and don't even identify as homeless -- even though they are in the same situation themselves.

"Many of them are the oppositional defiant youth that have crashed and burned and failed at home, school, and been through the various programs. They still need that social belonging, and we try to be that stable, consistent adult presence in their lives," said Campbell.

The small buildings provide more than just a safe place for a few hours. For some, it can also provide an important step in getting off the streets.

"We want to reconnect youth to something, to be that bridge off the streets," added Campbell.

Santiago said she isn't ready for that -- yet. One day, though, she hopes to become a chef, and with support at the YO house is taking steps in that direction.

"Any time I need them, I can call them. I can ask for help or advice. So, in the future I see myself making it somewhere," said Santiago.

In addition to the Youth Outreach house being open three afternoons a week, YO staff members also go out five nights each week to reach runaways with food and services on the streets of Waikiki.

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