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Big Day of Giving 2018

Sleeping bags are for camping trips and sleep-overs, not for living.

Every night in Sacramento, more than 400 children and young people do not sleep in a bed, but rather find refuge on a park bench, under a freeway or on a doorstep. Wind Youth Services provides food, shelter and lodging for as many of these homeless youth as we can.

Please consider a gift to Wind Youth Services this Thursday, May 3 for Sacramento’s Big Day of Giving. Beginning at 12:01am on May 3 and running through midnight, supporters can make an online donation to Wind, then encourage their social media networks to give – and share why you chose Wind Youth Services for a donation.

Big Day of Giving is a movement to celebrate and provide incentives to give—in the Sacramento community, in particular. This effort harnesses the collective power of a unique blend of partners—nonprofits, businesses and corporations as well as families and individuals—to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in giving.

Inspired by our mission – to provide supportive services and opportunities to youth experiencing homelessness as they pursue self-determined lives of stability and independence – Wind Youth Services will be raising funds to change the lives of children, teens, and young adults (ages 12-24) who are in crisis, on the street and without a safe place to call home.

Last year, the Sacramento community generously donated nearly $30,000 to Wind and it is our hope that we can top the $30,000 mark this year. Please join us!

Wind Spring Appeal





Dear Wind Supporter,

“I was probably 8 or 9 years old when I first remember hearing the angry voices of my parents; and the violence. It wasn’t unusual, I got used to it after a while and eventually my Dad left.  My Mom introduced my brother and me to needles when we were in junior high and we started using drugs and as a result became homeless,” says Jacob.

When you arrive in a city you figure out where you can stay, and we heard about the Wind Center before we came to Sacramento. So as soon as we got off the bus here, we went to Wind. It was the first time we felt safe at a homeless center. And honestly, Wind saved our lives,” says Daniel.“We have traveled around California, staying at different homeless shelters. I have fallen asleep to people crying, yelling and fighting,” says Jacob.

Wind operates the only resource-intensive center dedicated to homeless young people. With nearly 1,000 youth visiting monthly, and at least 15% unduplicated, Wind provides a structured, age-appropriate, environment away from the dangers of the street.  For these adolescents, the daily schedule of the Center is their only exposure to a “normal” life.

Afraid and “hyper-vigilant,” the darkness of night is anything but restful to a homeless teenager. Here at the Center, young people are provided access to a “respite room” where they can sleep under the watchful eye of counselors. Teens are also provided a locker to secure their limited belongings, access to a kitchen, computer, shower and laundry facilities.

Once at the Center, counselors and staff members focus on the specific needs of each young person by assessing their health concerns, reviewing safe housing options, exploring education and job opportunities and ensuring they receive timely crisis management counseling.

The Wind Center is at the heart of what we do, and is the first contact with most of our youth. Can you help us continue to provide a safe place for Sacramento’s homeless youth? Your donation will provide more resources as the youth pursue self-determined lives of stability and independence; but more importantly a safe place of acceptance and love.

With gratitude,

Suzi Dotson, Executive Director

P.S. Daniel and Jacob’s story of violence and drugs is not unusual. Can you consider a donation to help youth like Daniel and Jacob realize their potential as healthy, successful, young adults?

Wind begins renovations on new Youth Center

Wind Youth Services has secured a new location at 815 S Street in Midtown, Sacramento! Construction has begun to renovate it for use (you can see Executive Director, Suzi Dotson, swinging the first hammer).

The staff has already taken up residence on the top floor, and the bottom floor should be ready for use by early summer. An effort is now underway to raise the funds necessary to make this ideal building and location Wind’s permanent home.

As announced earlier, a $1 million gift was pledged by Golden 1 Credit Union, and several leadership gifts have also been secured from Wind Board Members, SMUD, The Donant Foundation, and others.

The new Wind Center will offer an innovative approach to end youth homelessness in Sacramento by co-locating housing, employment, health, education and other essential services designed specifically for youth.

Wind currently operates the only resource-intensive center dedicated to young people. Despite serving over 1,000 youth annually, the number of homeless youth continues to rise. Operating out of a 3,000 sq. ft. converted adult shelter, the current Wind Center is unable to provide the comprehensive services these young people so desperately need. Recent partnerships have provided an opportunity to convert the current Center to a youth-specific emergency shelter, adding 20 additional beds to Wind’s shelter capacity, while allowing the Center to be relocated to a new 14,000 sq. ft. centrally located facility.

This new facility will serve as THE front-door for all youth in crisis. The Center will continue to provide a structured, age-appropriate, safe place away from the street. Youth will also be provided a locker to secure their belongings, access to a kitchen, computer, shower and laundry facilities.

Mindful that many homeless youth are reluctant to seek help for fear of losing the only family they know, the Center will also provide kennel accommodations and pet food.

Once at the Center, counselors and staff members focus on the specific needs of each and every young person by assessing their health concerns, reviewing safe housing options, exploring education and job opportunities and ensuring they receive timely crisis management counseling.

Early intervention and diversion will continue to be a foundational service, preventing youth from ever becoming homeless through family counseling and reunification whenever possible.

Together, Wind, along with several partner agencies will use evidence-based approaches to provide immediate access to safety services, mental health counseling, career and education services, and connection to permanent housing resources depending on the individual needs.

Hope Lives Here

Teresa Owens was just 13 years old and living in Torrance, California, when she boarded a train to Sacramento. Traveling alone, she carried in her bag just a toothbrush and a few items of clothing. Owens, now 24, recalls arriving in the city she had no personal connection to and had never before visited. “I just picked it because I recognized the name.”

After stepping off the train, she headed downtown. “I found a place in the downstairs of a parking garage by the jail. A lot of homeless sleep there. The first night I didn’t sleep at all,” says Owens. Yet over days and weeks, the people she met in the bowels of the parking garage grew into a sort of family for the young teen. “We took care of each other.” She made the garage her home for the next several months, stealing food and clothing to survive.

Owens had come to Sacramento fleeing a chaotic home life in Southern California. Her parents—her mother was born in Havana, her father hailed from Mississippi—had been childhood sweethearts, but the family had come upon hard times. The family moved often because of evictions and unstable employment. Arguments were frequent. When the couple split in 2001, Owens lived with her mother and five siblings.

Owens remembers when she was 9 and the family was residing in a hotel. “We would get dropped off by the bus, and my mom used to always meet us at the bus stop. But one day she wasn’t there, so we walked home. The door was unlocked but nobody was there. So we waited and waited and waited,” says Owens. Her younger siblings grew hungry, so Owens made them some eggs, catching the small kitchen on fire. The children managed to put it out themselves. “But nobody came and checked on us for like a week.”

Her mother, who had become addicted to drugs, was eventually reunited with Owens and her siblings but was unable to provide a stable home life for her children in spite of experiencing periods of sobriety. The turmoil in the home weighed heavily on Owens, who eventually took matters into her own hands.

“I got tired of it,” she says. “My mom was really struggling. She was taking all her anger out on me. I got tired of all the mental and physical abuse.” With no other family to turn to, she made the decision to leave and start a new life in Sacramento.

Living on and off the streets for several years, Owens’ life took an unexpected turn. She was hanging out with a friend who needed to go to Wind Youth Services’ drop-in center to get help obtaining a government ID card. What Owens found there gave her hope: a warm meal, clean clothing, bus passes, compassionate staffers who wanted to help her find employment and housing.

Read the full story in Sacramento Magazine here.

Wind to get new center

Wind Youth Services and Golden 1 Credit Union Announce
New Homeless Youth Counseling Center

SACRAMENTO, Calif., July 19, 2017 – Hundreds of youth and young adults in Sacramento face each night without a place to sleep. Some sleep outside, others couch-surf, some will resort to selling themselves in return for a place to spend the night. The needs of homeless youth differ from those of the homeless adult population. To break the cycle of homelessness, this vulnerable group needs early and intensive intervention not available from traditional adult services and shelters. To address the unique challenges of homeless youth, Wind Youth Services (Wind), in partnership with other homeless youth service providers, is opening a 24-hour youth counseling center that co-locates providers and offers multiple services in a one-stop location.

Golden 1 Credit Union (Golden 1) will contribute $1 million over the next three years to help make this possible. The project has the potential to make a substantive difference in the lives of youth, and aims to prevent youth homelessness in Sacramento, ensuring their well-being for years to come.

The youth counseling center, located at 8th and S Streets in downtown Sacramento, will focus on an early intervention and prevention model. Led by Wind, the center will also house programs offered by Lutheran Social Services, Goodwill, and Waking the Village. Together, the agencies will use an evidence-based approach to provide immediate access to safety services, mental health counseling, career and education services, and connection to permanent housing resources depending on individual needs.

“Golden 1’s commitment to giving back is a cornerstone of what it means to be a credit union. Helping people is inherent to our business philosophy and we are honored to partner with Wind,” said Donna Bland, President and CEO of Golden 1 Credit Union. “We carefully researched the issues surrounding youth homelessness in our region and chose to support this project because we know it has the potential to impact homeless youth and young adults in a material and meaningful way. We are proud to deepen our support of the communities we serve and the organizations that work to make them great.”

“Today is a great day for our community’s renewed commitment to end youth homelessness. Prevention and early intervention are the critical components our community needs to intervene in the lives of youth before it is too late,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “This exciting new partnership between Golden 1 Credit Union and Wind will significantly increase our city’s ability to provide shelter, reunification services, and job training to young people who might otherwise enter a cycle of chronic homelessness.”

The new youth counseling center will take a comprehensive and proactive approach to address the challenges faced by homeless young people ages 12 to 24. This strategy can reduce the number of youth who are homeless, and minimize trauma by reducing the length of time young people spend without a home.

“Many of the homeless services in Sacramento and throughout the country are designed for adults,” said Suzi Dotson, Executive Director of Wind Youth Services. “This center focuses on the special circumstances surrounding homeless youth. It gives us the tools and services we need to intervene early and prevent young people from becoming chronically homeless adults.”

Wind, Waking the Village, Goodwill, and Lutheran Social Services will each bring a different set of services to the center. Wind will direct overall operations and offer peer support services, outreach workers, and youth advocates who provide intensive case management. Waking the Village will run a curriculum using arts to promote healing, build community, and develop leadership skills. Goodwill will provide job training skills, and Lutheran Social Services will provide career counseling, situational assessments, and vocational planning and training.

“It’s encouraging to know that Wind Youth Services, Goodwill and other nonprofits have joined forces” said Supervisor Phil Serna. “These are widely respected community service providers, and their combination is clearly greater than just the sum of what they bring individually.”

“Every kid needs a home and support to succeed. We are grateful that Golden 1 and Wind have stepped up to help our most vulnerable kids get housing and services so they can be safe and healthy,” said Sacramento City Council member Steve Hansen.


The new center is expected to open by the end of 2017. To supplement the services offered by the main agencies, Wind is planning to add partners who can provide mental health services and an on-site medical clinic. Wind’s Youth Advisory Board will be involved to ensure that youth voices are included in program development.




With more than $11 billion in assets, Golden 1 Credit Union is the leading credit union in California, and the sixth largest credit union in the United States. Golden 1 Credit Union delivers financial solutions with value, convenience, and exceptional service. As a dynamic and trusted leader, Golden 1 is committed to enhancing the financial well-being of its members and diverse communities. Golden 1 has more than 850,000 members and 1,600 employees. Visit www.golden1.com for more information.




Wind Youth Services provides supportive services and opportunities to youth experiencing homelessness as they pursue self-determined lives of stability and independence. Wind Youth Services is the only service provider in Sacramento County focusing solely on runaway, homeless, and transition-age youth. One out of every 50 American children are homeless, and our community is no exception.  Every day, Wind has a waiting list of more than 100 youth needing housing despite their two shelters being fully operational.  Nearly 40% of these individuals are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth who have been rejected by their families.

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