Nonprofit seeking community feedback

Youth Outreach Services is holding Nov. 11 open house for residents to meet staff, offer service recommendations

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

Youth Outreach Services, a nonprofit with offices in Austin and suburban Melrose Park, has been reaching out to residents in its service area to get their feedback on how the organization can better service them. 

This fall, the organization has hosted three open houses, including one on Oct. 15 at its Melrose Park facility. It also plans to hold one on Nov. 11 at its Austin office, 5910 W. Division St. 

Jamie Noto, who became the nonprofit's executive director this summer, said that she wants to give residents a chance to see what Youth Outreach Services does and to give their insights on what kind of community services they'd like to see from the nonprofit. 

Noto said that the organization changes its programming in response to the community's needs and open houses are a great opportunity to find out what those needs are. 

"We try to be responsive to the community and try to offer services where we see the trends," Noto said. "So, periodically, we like to do open houses so the community can come in, learn about what we do and meet the staff."

According to its website, YOS helps teens "that face challenges at home, in school and in the community" reach their full potential. The organization offers a wide range of counseling services for the teens and their families; crisis intervention programs; prevention programs that tackle substance abuse, teen pregnancy and bullying; and youth summer jobs program. 

The program also provides a range of programs designed to keep young people from going to prison or juvenile detention, such as restorative justice initiatives and alternatives to detention. 

Recently, the organization launched therapy programs for teens who have demonstrated unhealthy sexual behavior. The nonprofit usually works with schools and community organizations, Noto said. 

"In many of the schools, we have counselors that go into schools and work very closely with [the school staff], to make sure that kids are receiving necessary services that they need when they're in school or not in school," she said. 

At the moment, Noto said, they offer services in five schools in the suburbs and five schools in Chicago. They also get referrals from community organizations and from schools. 

The nonprofit's service area spans throughout the West Side and Northwest Side of Chicago, as well as all of Proviso, Leyden and Riverside townships. It provides most services except crisis intervention in Oak Park and River Forest, and it recently started expanding into Lyons Township.

Funding for most of the nonprofit's programs comes from the Illinois Department of Human Services, while funding for substance abuse programs and many justice system-related programs comes from the Department of Justice. The private funding, Noto said, helps provide additional mental health services. 

Noto said that, like many other nonprofits in the state, YOS was hurt by the budget impasse during former Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration. She said that the organization had to cut staff and services, which it is currently trying to rebuild. 

Youth Outreach Services once had a Maywood office, which closed during the Rauner administration. But Noto explained that the closure had less to do with the shortage of funds than the fact that Ceasefire, the violence prevention program housed in the nonprofit's Maywood offices, kept suspending operations while dealing with its own funding issues. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker's administration has brought welcome stability, Noto said. 

"Under the new administration, we have payments coming in on time and we had an increase in our funding," she said.  

For more info on Youth Outreach Services, visit yos.org.

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com

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