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Noah’s Anchorage Celebrates Reopening of its Home for Runaway and Homeless Youth

Community Welcomed at Open House after $500,000+ Renovation

Boardmember and Whimsie Fund Principal/Director Wendy Atterbury, Executive Director Valerie Kissell, and Board Chair Yolanda Garcia | Credit: Gail Arnold

On November 20, Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Shelter, a licensed residential shelter for homeless and runaway youth ages 12 to 17, welcomed the community at an Open House, which celebrated the more than $500,000, attractive renovation of the eight-bed home on West Figueroa Street. Noah’s talented and dedicated staff provides vital assistance to these youth, so the reopening was a time of great celebration.

Part of the Channel Islands YMCA’s Youth and Family Services, Noah’s provides temporary shelter and basic needs assistance, crisis resolution assistance, counseling for youth and families, and 24-hour hotline assistance. It is the only shelter for this age group between Los Angeles and Monterey. 

The Open House was a time of jubilant celebration not only because the residential services were sorely missed during the several month renovation period, but also because of the strikingly attractive result of the remodel. The more than 100 guests got guided tours of the facility, where they learned about the critical and transformational assistance Noah’s provides. Funding for the project came largely from Boardmember Wendy Atterbury’s and Harry Atterbury’s Whimsie Fund ($400,000+) and from the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara ($65,000). Wendy Atterbury oversaw the project, working closely with Executive Director Valerie Kissell and others.  

They sought to create a space that not only complied with the multitude of laws and regulations governing such a facility but, according to Kissell, they approached the project through a trauma-informed lens — focusing on what would be the most therapeutic for youth going through crisis.   And they sought to create a space where the youth would feel valued and worthy.  They were guided by these considerations in every decision over layout, furniture style, colors, fabric, and more. With Atterbury’s determination, her feng shui experience, and her willingness to commit full time to the project, the renovation was a huge success. 

For many guests, including former residents and staff, the open house was an emotional time as they marveled over the amazing renovation of the home, which had been in dire need of a remodel for years. 

Kissell praised her staff, who have worked tirelessly to meet youth where they are during the renovation to dole out shoes, backpacks, sleeping bags, and other items of need. 

Street/Support Outreach Specialist Kati Paye, who has been at Noah’s for four years, shared how triumphant it is to reopen Noah’s. Paye related how she has witnessed incredible healing at Noah’s that has truly transformed lives.  While the shelter, food, and hygiene items that Noah’s provides are important, Paye shared that she has found that it’s the connection that these youth most crave — and find at Noah’s — because they are coming from homes where they do not feel heard.

About 40 percent of the youth sheltered at Noah’s are brought in by a parent or guardian, while nearly another 20 percent come in on their own. These self-referred youth may be experiencing abuse or neglect or simply be homeless. Most of the remainder come from law enforcement or probation. These include youth picked up from the streets where the guardian is unknown, youth whose parents are detained, and youth in a home where law enforcement is called in for a domestic issue. They stay at Noah’s awaiting a hearing to determine their placement.

In the past, about five percent of the youth were foster placements, but regulations implementing  a relatively new state law (AB 403) prohibit the mingling of voluntary and foster youth so going forward, Noah’s will not have foster placements. It is, however, working with Child Welfare Services to develop a protocol allowing it to continue serving foster youth who end up at its door.

In 2018, Noah’s provided residential services for 118  youth, with just over half being female. The average stay for those coming on their own or through family/guardian is a few days.

Last year, Noah’s drop-in services were used by 338 youth, including youth living in vehicles with a family member, often a single mom, who seek out basic needs assistance but do not want to leave their family alone at night. According to Kissell, a majority of youth served are experiencing neglect or abuse, with much of the neglect due to poverty.

Youth and Family Services gets about three quarters of its revenue from government grants and contracts, which means it must raise significant funds from the private sector.

Youth and Family Services operates three other programs that together with Noah’s provide a continuum of services to youth at risk for neglect, abuse, and homelessness. Support and Outreach Services (SOS) is a crisis intervention program that provides youth ages 16 to 24 who have run away or been thrown out of their homes with basic needs assistance, counseling, case management, and much more.  It follows set routes where homeless youth congregate. My Home is a transitional-living program for former foster youth and other young adults between 18 and 24 who are otherwise facing homelessness. St. George Youth Center in Isla Vista provides bilingual and bicultural after-school programs for youth in grades 5-12.

For more info about Noah’s, go to https://www.ciymca.org/youthandfamilyservices/noahs/. The crisis hotline for families and youth is 866-963-8775. Send invites to gail@independent.com.

Photo: Gail ArnoldBoardmember John Nelson, Street/Support Outreach Specialist Kati Paye, and Board Vice Chair Dave Morley
Photo: Gail ArnoldFormer boardmember Tom Richards and Susan Richards
Photo: Gail ArnoldDistrict Attorney’s Office Victim-Witness Program Advocate Dayton Aldrich, Public Defender Attorney Mark Saatjian, and County Supervisor Gregg Hart
Photo: Gail ArnoldBoardmember Marsha Roberson and Women’s Fund Social Media Coordinator Kim Lieberman
Photo: Gail ArnoldNoah’s Anchorage
Photo: Gail ArnoldBoardmember and Whimsie Fund Principal/Director Wendy Atterbury, Executive Director Valerie Kissell, and Board Chair Yolanda Garcia


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