Counseling. Prevention. Housing. 360 Youth Services has provided services in these areas to youth and families in Chicago’s Western suburbs and nearby communities since its founding 50 years ago.
360 Youth Services—then known as Naperville Community Outreach— was founded in 1971 by a group of concerned parents and community leaders who recognized the need for youth-centered services in the Naperville area. Today, their mission and work are largely the same as in those early days: to help youth in the community.
Through their Counseling program, 360 Youth Services’ trained counselors provide a variety of professional counseling to youth and families who are navigating mental health issues, facing crises, dealing with stress, and more. Through their Prevention program, the staff utilizes strategies to encourage youth to make healthy choices and avoid substance use. And, finally, through their Housing services, the organization supports youth at risk of (or already experiencing) housing insecurity and homelessness. 360 Youth is attempting to curb youth homelessness through several initiatives: Emergency Youth Shelter, Transitional Housing, Rapid Rehousing, and Cornerstone Group Home, a youth group home.
The organization joined Housing Action Illinois as a new member in 2022 in order to support and be involved in Housing Action’s advocacy efforts, particularly the push for more state and federal funding to prevent and end homelessness.
Left to Right: Delvonte Pierre, Program Manager, Cornerstone Group Home; Valerie Tawrel, Director of Housing; Terence Brewton, Program Manager, Cornerstone Group Home; Precious Bradley, Program Manager, Emergency Shelter; Kelly Mannion, Program Manager Transitional Housing Program – Rapid Rehousing
By approaching their mission through three, multifaceted programs, the organization aims to address the many ongoing, intersecting issues youth experience as they progress through adolescence. Since 2021, the organization has seen increased investments specifically in youth housing; more state and federal money has been allocated towards fighting youth homelessness, especially focusing on housing specialized populations like LGBTQ+ youth, who often need a combination of service, advocacy, and safe spaces.
As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the organization also recently introduced their Emergency Shelter Programming, providing non-congregate housing through hotel rooms. The new investment in non-congregate shelters as a method of reducing the spread of COVID-19 was a change from the organization’s previous reliance on the congregate model.
“Building a whole new program, adding staff and forging additional relationships with the community… we had to figure out how to provide shelter when there was no shelter,” recounts Valerie Tawrel, 360 Youth Services’ Director of Housing.
Now, more than ever, the organization has been working to provide support for youth in the community at all levels, especially as the pandemic exacerbates previously existing issues regarding physical health, housing, and even mental health. 360 Youth Services also prioritizes adopting a racial equity lens in their programming, acknowledging ongoing racial disparities not only in their immediate community, but nationally as well. This means that they are constantly creating virtual and physical safe spaces for those that they serve and staff alike.
Tawrel continuously emphasizes the importance of holding each other afloat. Since the organization is located in Naperville, which is also one of its primary service areas, Tawrel notes that they encounter misunderstandings. “People think, ‘oh, there’s nothing going on in Naperville. They don’t need any help.’ But it’s absolutely the opposite.”
360 Youth Services is eager to raise their profile and elevate their programs so that people know both about the services they provide, as well as understand why those services are desperately needed in the first place.
“We’re all in this together,” says Tawrel. “That’s what I’ve observed in the last couple years.”