More Than A Shelter: How A Holistic Approach Helps Homeless Youth

For youth experiencing homelessness, breaking free from this cycle depends on more than just shelter. It requires a holistic approach to support and stability. With more than 200 years of experience supporting youth in need, Carolina Youth Development Center (CYDC) understands how to help these promising young people transition into long, successful and happy lives.

NOTE: As of Feb. 29, 2024, Carolina Youth Development Center (CYDC) has rebranded to Landmarks for Families. Our nonprofit, community programs and residential services remain committed to cultivating thriving youth and families in this new chapter.

The Importance of Support and Community

Embracing a holistic approach means emphasizing the importance of support and community. Building a support network and fostering a sense of belonging within a caring community is fundamental to helping these young souls succeed. 

By working together, we can all foster a supportive environment that reinforces our youths’ determination and provides a safety net when they face challenges on their journey to independence. The following facets are critical to a truly holistic care approach:

Health & Safety: Nurturing Well-being

Youth experiencing homelessness often confront daunting health and safety challenges. A compassionate approach to support can make a world of difference:

  • Mental Health Support: Homeless youth frequently grapple with mental health issues, making access to therapy and counseling priceless to those we serve. 
  • Access to Healthcare: Many homeless youth lack consistent healthcare, rendering them vulnerable to preventable illnesses. Access to reliable medical care is pivotal to these young individuals’ short- and long-term success, with many homeless or at-risk youth qualifying for coverage via the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Healthy Relationships: Fostering Trust and Self-esteem

Developing trust and self-esteem is a transformative journey for homeless youth as they navigate the challenges and uncertainties of their unique circumstances. A truly holistic approach to relationship building is built upon the following:

  • Mentorship Programs: Pairing homeless youth with mentors provides them with positive role models and guidance. Mentors assist in building essential life skills and making constructive decisions.
  • Group Support: Support groups create a sense of community and belonging, reinforcing that these youth are not alone in their experiences. Programs like CYDC’s L.Y.G.H.T. peer grief support group provide a much-needed safe space to discuss these important topics.

Life Skills & Experiences: Empowering Independence

By providing youth with a comprehensive foundation of practical life skills, such as financial literacy, problem-solving, communication and critical thinking skills, we can empower them to overcome challenges and thrive in their journey toward independent living. 

  • Independent Living Skills: Teaching essential skills such as cooking, budgeting and time management equips youth to transition into an independent life. These skills are fundamental as they grow beyond transitional housing
  • Workshops and Training: Workshops on job hunting, resume building and financial literacy empower homeless youth with the tools needed to find and maintain employment. Vocational training, such as those offered by programs like Job Corps, can equip youth with marketable skills, paving the way for stable work. 
  • Internship and Apprenticeship Programs: Internships and apprenticeships help homeless youth gain work experience and establish valuable connections within their chosen fields.

Education: A Path to Transformation

Access to education plays a crucial role in breaking the cycle of homelessness. By providing individuals with the opportunity to acquire knowledge, skills and resources, education empowers them to gain financial independence and rebuild their lives. CYDC offers in- and after-school programs, such as Keep Connected and ScholarCentric Studies, as well as aid at our campuses to help students succeed:

  • School Outreach: Collaborating with schools to ensure homeless youth can access education is vital. Laws such as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act provide protections and support for homeless students.
  • Tutoring and Homework Help: These services assist homeless youth academically, bridging educational gaps and helping them achieve their full potential.

Financial Stability: The Foundation for a Brighter Future

Our commitment does not end with teaching our youth. We are committed to equipping them with the resources and support system they need to not only secure stable housing but also to thrive as self-sufficient contributors to society. Fundamental steps to this independence include:

  • Financial Literacy Training: Teaching youth about financial management, including budgeting and saving, empowers them to make sound financial decisions and secure their future.
  • Access to Banking Services: Assisting youth in opening bank accounts and accessing financial services empowers them to manage their money effectively and plan for a better tomorrow.

How You Can Help

Supporting homeless youth through a holistic approach is not solely the responsibility of shelters and community partners; it’s a collective effort that involves us all. 

You can contribute to making a difference in the lives of others by volunteering your time, donating to local nonprofits and shelters, advocating for policy changes that protect youths’ rights and ensure access to education and healthcare, providing mentorship and more.

By focusing on these facets and fostering a supportive community, we empower homeless youth to break the cycle of homelessness, nurture their dreams and build a brighter and more secure future. Want to get involved? Visit to explore open opportunities.

CYDC is more than a shelter. We are a community support system.

With more than 200 years of experience supporting our nation’s youth and families, Carolina Youth Development Center is equipped to lead your child or family through life’s challenges. Whether on-site or in-home, our compassionate team is ready to meet you where you are with the services you need. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and speak with a member of our team.

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CYDC is now Landmarks for Families!

For more than 230 years, we have guided neighbors toward stronger, hopeful futures and now we’re evolving too. We’re grateful to enter this new chapter with you. Welcome to Landmarks for Families!