Access to a Better Future

Access to a Better Future

In its second year running, the Access Center Social Rehabilitation Services part of Sound Community Services, better known as AXS, has been expanding their clientele slowly while helping the young adults within their program. AXS is a young adult drop-in center located in New London, which was created in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy in efforts to provide the youth with a safe and productive environment.

The AXS Center began with a vision of targeting those in need of educational improvement then formed into an increasingly fun, positive environment with other services and activities that are more appealing to young adults. Jason Hyatt, director of residential and young adult services explained that many of the clients come and start off by playing video games and watching television. “A lot of times it becomes more,” Hyatt said; more than relaxing and having fun. AXS became an outreach program adding supplemental services in which the clients are able to decide what they wanted to get done on their own time.

Young adults ranging from 18 through 25 are able to sign up free of charge and come and go as they please. Many services are provided such as mental health counselling, basic needs, job, housing and food assistance, as well as recreational events. Since opening, Sept 2014, over 250 clients have been enrolled, averaging about 16 clients monthly. About 15 to 20 percent of the young adults being advised and supported are currently homeless, 70 percent of the clients have completed their high school education.  “We focus on stage, not age,” Hyatt said. “What stages in life are these young adults in and how can we stand by them while they face young adult challenges.” Hyatt explained.

Each of the staff members are there for certain areas of service, yet all of them interact with the young adults and help in more ways than one. Meeting the needs of the clients is AXS overall mission as well as each of the staff members’ prerogatives. “We want to provide a safe, positive environment for young adults to grow with support,” Hyatt said.

Jasminne Samuels, an outreach case manager who has been working with Sound Community for over three years, has now been working with AXS for six months. Samuels helps with housing, linking services and mental health. “It’s hard,” Samuels said. Many of the youth that come into AXS are mentally or physically ill, have poor social skills or come in for basic needs such as clothing, personal hygiene, schooling, etc.

“People are in their own personal crisis. Sometimes they just want to sit down, talk and vent,” Samuels explained. The program staff strive their best to help the clients while letting them live as adults and make their own decisions. “I want to meet the client’s goals and expectations as best I can,” Samuels said. Rather than hand holding, the clients are shown the keys of success and are able to apply it to their lives on their own. When feedback is wanted it’ll be granted, otherwise listening is a big part of the staffs job.

The difficulty of the job comes with being able to help without dictating what each client should do next. “I learned to be more receptive of what the clients want,” Orlando Centeno Ramos, another case manager said. Ramos began working with youth at Bennie Dover Jackson Middle School in a special education classroom while working as a child care worker at Waterford Country School. He explained that he had to be more demanding in the job, unlike at AXS. “AXS has a completely different atmosphere,” Ramos said.

The AXS Center is a judgement free zone which includes a computer, family and game room, as well as a kitchen area. Some of the clients choose to use the computers to watch videos, get homework done or fill out job applications. Others decide to come for the warmth and play video games or watch television. With a relaxed atmosphere, AXS acts as a home away from home for these young adults.

“They’ve been helping me with housing and job searching, it’s also a good place to go when there is nowhere to go,” JS, 20, one of AXS clients said. Michael Morgan the program coordinator agrees that AXS is a great place for young adults to hang out and wind down if needed. “I feel we’re doing something very special, even providing a warm place is important,” Morgan said.

Being a part of AXS is being a part community movement where the future adults are proving to become successful. When young adults run into conflict in their lives, they’re able to figure out what the next step is with the case managers and staff in AXS. Opened 9a.m to 6p.m weekly, AXS provides essential resources and access to a better future.

©Angela Angulo