The building, which will be remodeled to resemble a Harvard Square site, will open in the spring of 2024. (Nati Tesfaye, Contributing Photographer)

Youth to Youth New Haven, an organization that houses and provides services for youth experiencing homelessness, is advancing its volunteering efforts by beginning the acquisition and remodeling of a new housing site. 

Y2Y, which originated in Boston under the name Y2Y Harvard Square, came to New Haven in 2015. Now, the student-led initiative includes student volunteers from Yale, Southern Connecticut State University and the University of New Haven. 

Kenna Morgan ’26 began volunteering for Y2Y New Haven in the fall, working one shift per week since first semester. 

“I wanted to escape the Yale bubble,” she said. “It [the site] is a little different than what you would typically think of a homeless shelter. It’s basically a big house where the clients get to live while they’re working to get back on their feet.” 

The organization’s 24-person team is working with the Youth Continuum, another group that serves youth experiencing homelessness in the state of Connecticut.  The two groups have been working in tandem since the COVID-19 pandemic as Y2Y New Haven uses Youth Continuum’s shelter sites.

Y2Y New Haven acquired the rights to a new building on Grand Avenue last year and began planning the remodeling soon after. Y2Y New Haven’s flagship site is located at 141 Valley Street. 

Organizers said they hope that the new site, which is closer to campus, will make the group’s service more accessible to students and offer New Haven’s youth who are experiencing homelessness another space for shelter. As of now, Y2Y New Haven volunteers use public transportation to reach their current site. 

The organization’s volunteer program coordinator, Cathleen Liang ’24, said that the new building would give Y2Y “more of a community space.” 

“When we’re working with Youth Continuum it makes it more difficult for us to feel like we’re working for Y2Y,” Liang said. “We would be able to build up comradery and build up spirit in the space. It will also be an avenue to a new shelter space which will be closer for students who don’t have cars.” 

The building is set to be complete in the spring of 2024, and once finished, it will serve as the organization’s headquarters. 

As the remodeling takes place, Davis and other Y2Y volunteers said they hope to collaborate with more groups on and off campus and to recruit more volunteers. 

“We’d love to have more collaborations with student groups at other colleges,” Davis said. “And on campus, of course, it’d be great to do different kinds of events with performance groups to raise awareness and funds.” 

According to Morgan, similar to Youth Continuum, Y2Y’s support is not just focused on clients’ physical needs, as volunteers develop relationships with clients and offer guidance. 

“A lot of it really is just talking to people and hearing their stories and providing encouragement and maybe some advice when appropriate,” Morgan said. 

Y2Y’s personal approach is reflective of their individual-centered training programs, explained Krishna Davis ’25, Y2Y New Haven’s fundraising coordinator. The organization has volunteers complete “online modules” to help them develop their “interpersonal skills,” according to Davis.  

Michaela Bauman ’24, who serves on the organization’s student board as the advocacy and publicity chair, highlighted how youth homelessness is often overlooked despite becoming increasingly prevalent in communities across the United States. State and national statistics also show that certain groups are more susceptible to homelessness between the ages of 18 and 24. 

“Youth homelessness is a unique and pressing issue because it is often the result of children aging out of the foster care system. Also 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness are LGBTQ+,” Bauman noted. “Most individuals are also kicked out of their homes for their gender identity.” 

Bauman described this spring as “an exciting time to join” and urged students to get involved. 

The new site is located at 924 Grand Ave. 

Nati Tesfaye is a sophomore in Branford College from East Haven, Connecticut. He covers business, workers and unions in the city of New Haven. Last year, he covered housing and homelessness for the News.