Youth at the Teen Center include young teens who have been forced to leave home because of physical or sexual abuse and young adults struggling with substance abuse and/or mental illness. In addition to being without family or community support networks, many have educational deficits or learning disabilities, are at high risk for pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, and frequently interact with the criminal justice systems.
Most do not have the option of returning home, often have experienced multiple foster care placements, and have been unable to succeed in transitional housing or residential treatment programs. Many have been primarily responsible for their own care for years, struggling to survive, often in dangerous and self-destructive ways.
When Tom Abate was 11 his father asked him to leave the house. He lived with his drug-addicted mother for three years, then fled.
At 14, Tom was homeless on the streets of Portland, and Preble Street helped keep him alive while his talent for composing rhymes and hip hop beats started to attract attention … and a recording deal in Los Angeles that came with a $200,000 advance on royalties, a car, and a company-leased apartment.
Tom Abate, who has come a long way from his homeless days and nights in Portland, remembers and appreciates those who helped him along the way:
“If this doesn’t work out, I’d take every dime I’ve made and go back to Portland and give it to Preble Street.”
What We Offer
Preble Street Teen Center is the hub of services for homeless and runaway youth, providing immediate access and an acclaimed service coordination model. As the core component of Preble Street Teen Services, the Teen Center helps to meet immediate needs—providing warmth and safety, nutritious meals, clothing, and crisis intervention—while building a positive relationship with young people who have never been able to trust anyone, enhancing their self-esteem, offering them the opportunity to develop life skills that promote stability and independence.
The Teen Center empowers youth to make healthy choices and to plan healthy, hopeful futures through:
- Street outreach to encourage youth to leave the streets and to be safe.
- Basic shelter services that provide a safe alternative to the streets.
- Transition back to their homes or another safe living situation, including residential care and independent living.
- Casework services to help youth identify and achieve their goals for health care, employment, mental health and/or substance abuse counseling, legal assistance, housing, etc.
At the Teen Center, Preble Street and its collaborative partners provide integral service components—Day One for substance abuse and mental health services, the City of Portland Public Health for health services, and Portland Adult Education Street Academy for educational services—and work with other youth service providers throughout the community.
More than 200 youth visit the Teen Center each year; and despite setbacks and disappointments, every time one of them takes a life-affirming step forward, begins a GED course, agrees to counseling, or finds someone to trust, we have kept our promise to them.