$104K from a grant went a long way for this local youth shelter

Seton Youth shelter's girls house got a major facelift with help from grant money by the city of Virginia Beach. (Southside Daily/Melanie Occhiuzzo)
Seton Youth shelter’s girls house got a major facelift with help from grant money by the city of Virginia Beach. (Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — Seton Youth Shelters was recently the recipient of a $104,000 grant from the city’s HUD Funded Community Development Block grant, making it possible for Seton to do some major upgrades to their girl’s shelter.

Seton has been serving youth in Hampton Roads and beyond, for girls since 1985, and boys since 1999, said Jennifer Sieracki, executive director of Seton Youth Shelters.

Originally created as a space for young runaway girls, Seton has changed over the years to first accommodate boys and then to develop new programs, she said.

Currently, Seton Youth Shelters has three primary programs:

  • The boys and girls shelters.
  • The Street Outreach program.
  • Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program.

Between the three programs, Seton is able to service youth as young as 4 and as old as 18, Sieracki said.

On average Seton assists between 225 to 250 youth a year.

Changing populations

“We’re seeing a change with the kinds of youth coming to our shelters,” she said.

The average age of youth coming to the shelters is 14-15 years old, for both boys and girls.

In the past two years more LGBTQ+ youth have come to Seton in addition to eight victims of sex trafficking, Sieracki said.

To remind people of what to look for when identifying victims of sex trafficking, she will be updating Seton’s social media with tips.

The shelters are designated ‘National Safe Place’ locations so they are sometimes the first people who come in contact with those youth.

In addition to LGBTQ+ and sex trafficked youth, Sieracki said Seton works with a large population of homeless youth.

“We can pick up a youth in crisis, assess their needs and get them the help they need,” she said.

Every youth who comes through Seton’s doors is assessed on a case by case basis.

Sieracki said the shelters work with a myriad of community partners so if they can’t fulfill a need, someone else in the community can come step in instead.

For LGBTQ+ youth specifically, Seton has partnered with the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk for resources, free HIV testing and general assistance, said David Mount, street outreach team director.

Upgrading a place to call home

“When a youth has been on the street for three days their chances of being victimized increase exponentially,” Sieracki said.

It can turn into a crisis situation very quickly.

She wants youth to know Seton is there for them.

With the $104,000 in funding, the girls shelter was able to get a major face-lift with new windows, doors, siding, kitchen equipment and so on.

While staying at the shelter, the youth there are taught life skills, given structure and once they leave, Seton does 30-, 60-, 90- and 120-day check-ins.

In addition to the housing help, Seton offers free teen anger management classes and parenting courses.

To learn more about the shelter and all it has to offer, click here.

Those interested in donating to Seton Youth Shelters can click here.

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