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MAKE A DIFFERENCE | Naples Florida Weekly

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A young Youth Haven resident enjoys the company of Houston, one of the animal-assisted therapy dogs on the campus. This therapy program is especially helpful for new residents who may not be inclined to trust adults but who will trust a nonjudgmental dog. COURTESY YOUTH HAVEN

A young resident of Youth Haven enjoys the company of Houston, one of the animal assisted therapy dogs on campus. This therapy program is especially helpful for new residents who may not tend to trust adults but who trust a non-judgmental dog. Courtesy of the youth

We all need a safe haven. It can be a place that we are comfortable with, or possibly a caring person that we are comfortable with. For some local children, their safe haven is a place known as a youth haven.

Youth Haven is an emergency shelter with beds for up to 73 young people, providing a stable and caring environment for boys and girls aged 6 to 19 who have been removed from traumatic domestic situations and have nowhere else to go. Founded in 1972, Youth Haven caters to the needs of the abused, abandoned, and homeless children and adolescents in Southwest Florida by providing 24/7 specialist care on its 25 acre therapeutic campus.

Linda Goldfield is the managing director of Youth Haven. She tells us that there was a point in having a childhood friend who was systematically broken. “This memory motivates me to ensure that the children and young people in our community have a lifeline and every opportunity for a loving and safe home, hope for the future and the ability to heal.”

- Joe Landon is a communications consultant who retired in 2014 as Executive Director of Communications for Collier County Public Schools. Contact him at joelandon@outlook.com.

– Joe Landon is a communications consultant who retired in 2014 as Executive Director of Communications for Collier County Public Schools. Contact him at [email protected]

The young protégés from Youth Haven are served in a variety of ways. There is the residential program and a transition program for homeless unaccompanied young people aged 16 to 19.

A therapist is available on site for all residents to advise. An on-site animal-assisted therapy program is a favorite on campus, especially for newcomers who initially don’t trust adults but turn to a non-judgmental dog who will greet them with love.

Case Manager Bianca Perez is particularly proud of the collaborative problem-solving model that Youth Haven uses. “It enables us to address challenging behaviors at their roots,” she says. “Through empowerment, empathy and mutual problem solving, we can impart the skills children need to solve their own problems.”

Then there are Life Skills courses that include a nutrition program that promotes a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Students so inclined can also take care of several small gardens.

Youth Haven changes the lives of those they serve. A 17-year-old girl would likely be blind and homeless instead of preparing for a degree in child development. She came to Youth Haven with a progressive eye disease, but thanks to Youth Haven she had a corrective procedure and her eyesight has returned to normal.

An 18-year-old girl arrived at Youth Haven a few years ago, confused and nervous after moving from nursing home to nursing home from an early age. She has since graduated from high school and is now enrolled in a nursing program.

Kim Weisberg, Program Director of Youth Haven, attributes the success of Youth Haven to the longevity of her caring staff. “We’re a family,” she says. “Some of our employees have been with us for over 15 years. As some children return here multiple times, it is comforting for them to see familiar faces when they return. “

One of those faces belongs to youth carer Jason Venturino, who has been there for 17 years. “I see myself as a male role model for the children. It is important to me to start each day with a smile and a positive demeanor so that they start their day on the right foot. “

As you might guess, Youth Haven has been affected by COVID-19. As more and more young people are at risk, the needs of Youth Haven continue to increase. And their facility’s team is busier than ever to maintain high levels of cleanliness.

Unfortunately, the pandemic impacted the budget as fundraisers were canceled, additional supplies bought and staff increased. If you’d like to support what they do, visit www.youthhavenswfl.org or follow them on social media. ¦

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