Side by Side’s TAY Space Drop-In Center Re-opens!
The TAY Space drop-in center reopening in late May signaled good news for Marin youth who find a haven there.
Closed due to the pandemic, TAY Space has always served as a refuge for vulnerable young people – a place where any youth can charge a cell phone, use the bathroom, access a computer, or sit for a bit and connect socially with others. Emergency services such as connecting youth to shelters, food, and mental health options were offered by appointment, but the social hub and touchpoint for youth has been on hiatus until now.
Alyssa Martinez knows first-hand the crucial role the drop-in center plays and has spearheaded the re-opening. She frequented TAY Space with her children, long before becoming a Peer Advocate for the program. Her lived experience and unique perspective has been invaluable in creating a dynamic and varied calendar of social and wellness activities. Some activities include Mindfulness Meditation and Career Dream Boards, in addition to a monthly free Shop ‘til You Drop clothing distribution event.
Martinez is also placing an emphasis on the positive impact that art and music can have on helping people learn how to express themselves and reveal their feelings and needs. She recently asked youth to participate in a Roots of Life activity, first walking through a local park and then drawing a tree that they had observed. Then youth added affirming, positive messages within the image of their tree.
Since a fair number of the youth who come to the center are homeless, keeping food on hand is essential. Community connections with local nonprofits and restaurants are vital to the drop-in center’s ability to supply healthy snacks and celebrate special events. Martinez has been delighted with the outpouring of generosity from our community neighbors (see below).
At first, some youth were hesitant to return to the Center, even though all safety protocols were being followed. “We were all a bit nervous at first,” Martinez says, “but once we all got to know each other, we instantly made a connection.” One returning youth recently commented, “Just being here gives me life. I feel safe.”
A number of youth said that they like the drop-in center because they enjoy the interactions with people while engaging in social activities. Social anxiety can be a big trigger for youth. Others indicated that they feel they can share their thoughts without being looked down upon for their mental health struggles. Most importantly, they feel empowered in a safe place.
The Center is open from 1 to 5 PM, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. To learn more, contact TAY Space at 415-870-9298 or TAYSpace@sidebysideyouth.org.