Every weekday, the TAYLRD Louisville Drop-In Center in Paristown Pointe sees anywhere from 14 to 22 young adults; most are in the 19-25 age range, and nearly 80 percent of them are homeless. That statistic surprised even Anita Roper, the Seven Counties Services project director who runs the center and another one in Taylorsville, Ky., that opened in June.
The motto is “Connect, engage, contribute.”
TAYLRD stands for Transition Age Youth Launching Realized Dreams and is currently funded by the federal government’s “Now is the Time” Healthy Transitions Grant Program. The program is aimed at making sure people who have aged out of some of the protections and services offered to children don’t fall through the cracks. The drop-in center serves as a home base for many of these people. It’s a place where services they need are all available under one roof.
And what a cozy roof it is. The center looks more like an urban loft than a place to get therapy and advice about food stamps. There’s a pool table, a huge sectional sofa that faces an enormous flat-screen TV on which the young adults can play the latest video games. There is a lending library of mostly YA books and a stash of boardgames and card games.
Every day someone on staff makes a hot meal for the youth who come to the center. It’s not necessarily a full meal, but Roper says she didn’t want them leaving “without something hot in their bellies.” Sometimes it’s enchiladas, sometimes it’s lasagna, sometimes it’s pizza.
The drop-in center is open Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m., but people can make appointments with therapists and counselors at the center during the day.
Since the center opened on Dec. 10, Roper estimates they’ve served more than 70 people. Some have become regulars, some drop in from time to time, and some she never heard from again.
There are three rules the young people have to follow to avail themselves of TAYLRD’s services and amenities: They must be drug and alcohol free when they show up, they have to stick to the law while they’re there, and they must be willing to work toward a goal.
The second or third time a person comes to the center, they’re required to work through a goals worksheet with the counselors. The staff members help them prioritize their goals; Roper says the top three needs the students are working toward are housing, food and mental health care. They must continue to work toward these goals if they are to use the services the center offers.
For the most part, they all get along, though there have been a few skirmishes. “But I never feared for my safety,” she says. They are required to turn over any street weapons, which are locked up and returned at the end of the day. Guns are not allowed.
There’s a washer and dryer that are free to use. There are around five computers people can use to access the Internet — both to search for jobs, and for fun.
Roper says the biggest community builders are the table games and when someone puts on music and they dance.
Eventually, the center will be able to bill Medicaid for services rendered. Roper also says they’re working on building a foundation.
In Taylorsville, TAYLRD is located across from a high school, and the age demographic skews much younger. Many more teens who don’t need services visit the center to hang out and meet people.
Roper wants this for the Louisville TAYLRD. She doesn’t want the center to be stigmatized as a place where already marginalized people hang out. Everyone is welcome. Part of the reasoning behind the hip and cool decor is so that no one needs to be embarrassed about inviting friends over.
The center will have four full-time and one part-time staff as of next week, and soon they’ll hire a second part-timer.
Like many organizations that serve the homeless, TAYLRD is always in need of travel-sized toiletries and feminine hygiene products. Roper would be grateful if she could find volunteers to make dinner from time to time. When someone on staff is busy making dinner, it means one less staff member on hand to interact with the young adults.
The center is located at 1020 E. Broadway. For more information, contact Anita Roper 817-6061 or [email protected].