New Avenues for Youth tackles mental health using upstream approach with help from Regence

By Regence
May 03, 2017

Homelessness is a complicated subject that can involve a combination of issues including physical abuse, drug dependency, trauma and mental health. For youth who face one or more of these issues, the reality of being homeless can be completely overwhelming. Imagine a 15-year old who has experienced physical abuse in their home, looking for their next meal, trying to find shelter and unsure what the next day might hold. Living this type of life can be the first step down a dangerous spiral that can lead to a variety of issues including mental health problems. The connection between homelessness and mental health cannot be understated since, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 20 to 25 percent of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness.

New Avenues for Youth is a Portland-based organization that Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon supports to help at-risk youth access food, shelter, education and job training. This holistic approach to addressing homelessness and its root causes helps impacted youth aged 14-24 to overcome their barriers and realize their potential.

Addressing mental health through upstream and early intervention is a cornerstone of New Avenues’ strategy. The young adults experiencing homelessness are often tired, hungry, scared and don’t know who to trust. First and foremost, New Avenues provides food and respite from the street. The organization takes a holistic approach, and as the youth become more comfortable with the staff, they are exposed to a wide range of opportunities. New Avenues’ programs provide support with things like earning a GED, building a resume, finding transitional housing and even developing creative talents. All of these programs are designed to help youth build a more stable future for themselves.  

“From a mental health perspective, the wrap-around approach that New Avenues takes is critical to successfully helping at-risk youth improve their position in life,” said Alison Arella, Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility, Regence. “By helping homeless youth build confidence, take control of their own life, and show them that there are people who care, New Avenues reduces the impact of mental health disorders and prevents at-risk youth from a lifetime of homelessness.”