Teens celebrate Thanksgiving at new HOME Drop In

The holidays are usually a time for family and friends. Such was the case at the new Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action HOME Drop In on Northeast Broadway Street.

The drop in is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 12-7:15 p.m. to youth between 11–17 years old. If 18, guests must provide proof of high school or GED program enrollment. The drop in provides snacks, showers, navigation services such as help with obtaining food stamps, clothes, emergency services, stable housing, tutoring, and most importantly, a safe place to hang out with peers and mentors.      

The center was festive and ready for guests on Wednesday night. Holiday lights and a decorated table was festooned with candy pumpkins and groaning with a turkey, ham and all the fixings.

A triptych of friends enjoy a moment after dinner at the HOME Drop In on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 (Laura Tesler/Special to Salem Reporter)
Jamie Prather proudly shows off the turkey she cooked for guests at the HOME Drop In on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 (Laura Tesler/Special to Salem Reporter)

Guests soon arrived from Taylor’s House and from the local neighborhood. Plates were heaped with food. A period of quiet ensued as serious eating commenced, punctuated by laughter and general frivolity. Taylor’s House is an emergency home for youth needing temporary shelter, accommodating up to ten youth, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The shelter and drop in center are both run by the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency.  

Among the guests were several alumni of the HOME program, who have “aged out” as they are 19 or older. These alumni are now enrolled in a rapid housing program, which helps them with food boxes, housing vouchers, job search assistance, and provided active case management. 

Francisco Sanchez, Taylor’s House manager, and Grace Johnson, rapid rehousing program coordinator, enjoy a laugh at dinner at the HOME Drop In on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 (Laura Tesler/Special to Salem Reporter)
Aaliyah Garcia, 18, shows his compliments to the chefs with his appetite at the HOME Drop In on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 (Laura Tesler/Special to Salem Reporter)

The Broadway location for the Drop In is new, and celebrated its grand opening last week. The old location near downtown was no longer feasible as it was not cost effective to keep the older building up to the building code. Staff like the new location, as they feel the high visibility and easy access from bus lines is good for their main clientele – teenagers who do not drive – and they are also close to the skate park. 

Celeste Daniels, youth navigator, said that in In October the center served 90 youth and the numbers keep climbing. When asked how the center tries to help the unique needs of their guest, Daniels said that “they try to meet each person where they are and go from there.”

The center needs volunteers to be tutors, mentors, and to teach skills like crocheting, music, and other life skills. They can be reached at 503-932-9180.

Correction: This article was updated to correct the hours for the new drop-in location. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.

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Laura Tesler has lived in Salem, Oregon for 20 years and is originally from Flint, MI. Laura has been an underwater photographer for 15 years, and is an avid scuba diver. Topside, she has been taking photographs since age 12, and currently works on assignment for the Salem Reporter, and full time purchasing land for fish and wildlife habitat in the Willamette Valley. Laura attended Oregon State University, and has traveled extensively all over the world and the United States.