Philadelphia FIGHT’s Youth Health Empowerment program (often referred to as Y-HEP) abruptly shut down its drop-in center in late August, G Philly has learned.
Located at 1417 Locust Street, the program bills itself as offering “comprehensive healthcare services to teens and young adults” and providing a confidential safe space for “all patients, regardless of ability to pay.” Its fourth-floor drop-in center provided food, toiletries, programing, a shower, and garments for at-risk homeless youth. Operations on that floor have now been terminated; the program continues to provide health screenings and other clinical assistance.
“About two weeks ago, I stopped by Y-HEP for a drop-in and was told they didn’t do them anymore and to go somewhere else,” said Jay, a 18-year old queer patient at Y-HEP who describes his current housing situation as “transient.” “They didn’t tell me why it closed, but I know I stopped going often because they got more strict and started kicking us out for any little thing. I just went when I was hungry and needed to stay off the block for a bit.”
“The center closed in August after a lot of internal issues within the staff,” says a former Philadelphia FIGHT employee who worked closely with Y-HEP and requested not to be named. “The Locust building now only provides a health clinic that redirects homeless youth to other shelters and that’s about it. This is a problem because we provided a safe space for a lot of LGBTQ homeless youth who didn’t feel safe in non-affirming programs. … FIGHT has made it a point not to go public about this.”
At the time this story was published, Philadelphia FIGHT’s website still listed Y-HEP’s healthcare services but made no mention of the cessation of drop-in services. The organization has sent the following statement exclusively to G Philly:
For more than 20 years, Philadelphia FIGHT has affirmed a commitment to serve the needs of Philadelphia’s high-risk, high-promise youth through the Youth Health Empowerment Project (Y-HEP). Since 2011, Y-HEP has sponsored a Drop-in Center at 1417 Locust Street providing case management, mental health care, job skills training, empowerment programs, and support groups, for youth with specific programs and accommodations for LGBTQ youth. Our primary goal has been to provide safe and confidential spaces that are comfortable and welcoming for all young people.
On August 31, 2017, Philadelphia FIGHT implemented a multi-agency, multi-year plan to transition the services from the Y-HEP drop-in Center to three specialized agencies: The Attic, COLOURS, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Our continued financial support and strategic oversight reaffirm our commitment to developing youth-friendly spaces throughout our Philadelphia FIGHT locations. Simply put, these well-established, youth-serving, local agencies are better equipped to provide specific youth drop-in services.
Philadelphia FIGHT Community Health Centers further affirms our commitment to the following:
Youth Health Services: The services will continue at 1417 Locust Street until completion of a new state-of-the-art facility, where they will relocate and expand under the umbrella of FIGHT’s new Pediatric and Adolescent Health Center.
FIGHT’s PrEP Program: The first and still one of the largest programs in Philadelphia will continue to offer hundreds of LGBTQ youth access to effective, low or no-cost HIV prevention medications, counseling and support services.
Youth TEACH (Treatment Education Activists Combating HIV) classes: TEACH is an innovative health education program which trains people living with HIV/AIDS and those at risk, to act as peer educators, activists and advocates in their communities.
Project TEACH and (soon-to-be-launched) Critical Path Learning Center: We will continue with our school and residential facility outreach programming that includes sexual education, diversity training, HIV/AIDS information and training for young people throughout the city.