Success against all odds

by Jordan Redman
Staff Writer

Endurance in the face of adversity. It’s what homeless youth are challenged with every day.

“Succeeding against all odds” or “overcoming great adversity” defines the goals of Sisu Youth, Inc. who strive to help youth experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City with these challenges every day.

Sisu provides emergency shelter and care for youth ages 15-24. Since April 1, the shelter is open seven days a week from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“We focus on meeting the most basic needs,” said Jamie Caves, President of Sisu Youth Inc. “We understand a young person can’t thrive while thinking about dinner or if sleeping will be safe tonight. We believe in paving their road ahead. A young person must first have the security to have food and shelter consistently.”

Caves, explained Sisu’s services in detail, including the “The drop in center,” which is open on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday from 4-7 and Saturday 11-2.

“During these hours, homeless and at-risk youth can go through the clothing and resource closet, eat a warm meal, get groceries, shower, do laundry and relax,” she explained. “We work to break down barriers and help the kids identify and access community resources to help them succeed.”

Sisu Youth Inc. was created around the belief the Oklahoma City metro community can and will find a way to ensure its most vulnerable youth are cared for and protected to the very best of its ability.

Sisu strives to be inclusive, “We focus on making sure Sisu Youth is a safe and affirming place for every young person who finds themselves homeless.”

Nationwide, 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT+.

“It is my experience about half of the youth we see identify as LGBT+. Sometimes, this is the sole reason they were kicked out of their home. Many others suggest coming out to their family deteriorated the relationship to the extent that eventually they became homeless,” Caves said.

“We think it is extremely important for people who haven’t been accepted for who they are to get unconditional support; we work hard to be. Our volunteer staff and diversity represent sure people from all walks are expected and respected.”

Penny Reynolds founded Sisu Youth when she was trying to find resources for a young homeless person. 

“She discovered there weren’t many resources and a gaping hole in shelters [for youth],” Caves explained. “Minors can’t stay at adult shelters without their parents, and most youth shelters require the youth be in DHS custody for them to stay.”

The rules for Sisu Youth are simple; no weapons, no drugs. They ask guests pick up after themselves and be respectful to others.

Sisu Youth recently opened the shelter seven nights a week on April 1st. 

“By April 2nd, we were full. We’ve had approximately 14 young people staying with us each night,” Caves said.

Caves concluded, “We would love people to go to our website if they are interested in financially contributing or if they would like to complete a volunteer application. Sisu is privately funded and ran mostly by volunteers.

“We have three part-time staff members who cover the overnight piece, but the evening services, food, and closet are all available by the time and commitment of our community.”

For more information,

The Gayly. May 10, 2018. 10:12 a.m. CST.