For many of us, with Christmastime comes joy and compassion. But beyond that lies an ever-present problem: youth in need. Compass House addresses this perennial problem.

by Max Fisher

Compass House

Helping Youth in Need

For many of us, Christmastime brings a mist filled with joy-giving and compassion, but beyond that mist of the season lies an ever-present problem that becomes even more apparent during the most wonderful time of the year– youth in need. Even though there may be cheer and merriment in the air, there’s still a subtle war going on. One that is eternal and can’t be dispensed with by any physical means. Pain, sadness, anger, abandonment– these types of intangible problems can’t be “fixed” easily, but they can be managed. Those who are going through these problems and others can be helped; that’s why a place like Compass House is so important. If a youth is heading down the wrong or a difficult path, Compass House has the means to put them in the right direction and send them back out in the world with the means to traverse it better and ultimately succeed in it.

A Success Story

Compass House was founded in 1972 as a homeless shelter. Today along with the Emergency Shelter, they operate a Resource Center and a Rapid Re-Housing Program. Their mission is to provide runaway, homeless, and street youth with safe shelter and services through a voluntary and mutually agreed-upon process, in an environment that supports dignity, respect, and self-reliance. If a child is in serious need, the shelter will give them a place to stay. It’s the only shelter in the city that takes all kids (the Emergency House located on 370 Linwood takes kids ages12 to 17 while its sister site, the Resource Center located on 1451 Main Street, takes adults 18 to 24). Boy, girl, trans or whatever you identify as, in the LGBTQ+, their doors are always open if one needs their services. If they require any hygiene products or clothing, they’ll take care of that as well.

Beyond the shelter itself and the Resource Center, there’s also The Rapid Rehousing Program aimed at helping young adults suffering from homelessness to get on their feet and into stable housing. An assigned case manager will provide support in advocacy for clients through working with landlords and work to place each client in safe housing that feels like a home. The shelter also doubles as a 24/7 (like the shelter itself it’s open 24/7 365) crisis hotline where youth can call at any time to vent about whatever legitimate problems they may be facing, and in more severe situations such as contemplating self-harm can be put into contact with an agency or person that can help them deal with what they’re going through. Compass House is also a part of Safe place, which is a project utilizing designating businesses and community buildings as locations where youth can easily access help.

Compass House event

Its’ success has prompted the implementation of this youth shelter outreach program in 714 communities throughout the United States. All 30 Tops Markets in Erie County, as well as every NFTA bus, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the GLYS Drop-in Center, are Safe Place sites in Erie County. Compass House is an essential resource to the youth of Erie County and beyond. As long as there is a legitimate reason for the child to stay in Compass House, area codes are seldom a problem.

Providing Support & Hope

If the world is a race track which we traverse at high speeds through its rough and unruly terrain only to be burnt out when we’ve been on it for too long, then Compass House represents a pit stop for youth, where they can take a reprieve from life and whatever troubles are nipping at their heels and focus on themselves. To say that a place like this is vital doesn’t do it justice. As I mentioned initially, things like pain, sadness, abandonment, and so on will never go away. Children are often ill-equipped to handle, let alone process these and whatever other traumas they may be dealing with as they go about with their lives. As a result, many kids going through trauma suffer in silence as if seeking help is pointless, but that isn’t true. If they are willing to work to better themselves, Compass House will not only acknowledge a youth problem but give them the means to grow from them so they can move on and live a rich and fulfilling life.

The sad truth is many get dealt a bad hand that don’t deserve it. It’s a crushing fact that many of the kids today have the cards stacked against them, but as long as they’re willing to hang in there, Compass House will help them change their luck because if you don’t believe in the youth, you don’t believe in the future, and if you don’t believe in the future you’ve got no reason to wake up in the morning, and Compass House believes there’s always more mornings just around the corner.