Maricela Aboytes talks with therapist Will Brown at Encompass’ new center on Dubois Street in Santa Cruz. Aboytes is the resource center manager and Brown is a therapist for transition-age youth. (Liz Burkhart — Encompass)

SANTA CRUZ >> Santa Cruz-based nonprofit Encompass Community Services has opened a new center for 15- to 24-year-olds called the Thrive Hive. The center at 120 Dubois St. near Harvey West Park provides services for foster youths, young adults in the justice system and young people without permanent housing.

The center is designed specifically to meet the unique needs of transition-age youth individuals in our community,” said Jose Sanchez, the housing manager for Encompass transition-age youth services and independent living program. The center is also geared toward former and current foster youths, Sanchez said.

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The center opened Oct. 3 with services available 2-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. 

Some of the services include:

  • A computer lab and classrooms host skill-building classes for job interviews, scholarship applications and college applications.
  • A living room, laundry, showers and a stocked kitchen.
  • Support with CalWorks, the County of Santa Cruz’s Youth Employment Program, the California Conservation Corps, the federal Job Corps and the armed forces. Young adults can also get help with driver’s licenses, state ID cards and driver training.
  • Recreational space for health and wellness programs like meditation and yoga.
  • Medical help from an on-site nurse, MediCal benefits and food stamps.
  • In-house mental health services such as one-on-one therapy and group therapy. 
  • Housing support.

An open house and grand opening event will take place at 11 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Thrive Hive at 120 Dubois St., Santa Cruz. Refreshments, tours and information will be provided by Encompass staff. The event is free and guests are asked to RSVP.

An open warehouse design has improved ventilation, air-flow and wall-to-wall ceiling windows that allow for natural light to pour into the building, said Maricela Aboytes. Aboytes helps run the Thrive Hive and is the transition-age youth resource center program manager for Encompass. 

The Thrive Hive is less than a block from Encompass’ office at 320 Encinal St. The Thrive Hive’s leased space is also close to Harvey West Park. The park is a popular gathering place for youths who Encompass serves. Leaders hope the proximity will help encourage participation.

How the center started

Planning for the Thrive Hive began about five years ago, said Liz Burkhart, Encompass’ director of development and community relations. Encompass spent at least $593,000 in grant money to renovate the building into a teen center, an Encompass representative wrote in an email. Federal, state and county money have paid for much of the services. 

Money was first secured in 2019, but the planning for the center was “put on pause when the pandemic hit so we could respond to our community’s transition-age youth’s most urgent needs,” Aboytes said. For instance, throughout the pandemic, Encompass worked with the County of Santa Cruz County to provide seven trailers for unhoused participants ages 18 to 24 at the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Soquel-San Jose Road in Soquel and later at Cabrillo College.

Encompass’ ‘Thrive Hive’ center for youth and young adults offers housing services and job connections. (Kara Meyberg Guzman — Santa Cruz Local)

How it’s helped

Ooli Ahanu StrongHeart can testify to the benefits of Encompass’ services for transition-age youth. StrongHeart came to Encompass for nearly 10 years as a foster youth, and just kept showing up. Today, StrongHeart is a peer mentor and youth advisory board facilitator.

“I survived the foster system, and when I did not have any guidance, I had TAY Encompass,” StrongHeart said, referring to transition age youth. “It was a good place for me to see my own potential.” 

StrongHeart met others that were in similar situations who had experienced trauma. Beyond that, StrongHeart learned life skills like how to cook, counseling techniques and even how to change a car’s oil. 

As part of Encompass’ expanded services, the Thrive Hive center also offers comprehensive case management services. At the Thrive Hive, there are incentives like a gift card for participation in a workshop. Thrive Hive workshops can have up to 25 people with three to four staff present. 

“Leaving room for each and every one of these youth’s complex personhood is really important,” said StrongHeart.

One workshop, Emotions and Feelings, helps youths explore how emotions and feelings manifest in different life situations. 

“The youth really enjoy that kind of attention,” StrongHeart said. The safe space enables the youth to speak openly to people that they trust and that can support their needs, StrongHeart said.

StrongHeart said another workshop has helped transition-age youth stay sober. One of StrongHeart’s goals is to keep the workshop a sober space. StrongHeart noticed that when youth came to the workshop and saw others respecting the boundaries and trying to stay sober, they wanted that for themselves. 

Learn more

The Thrive Hive youth center is open 2-6 p.m. Monday to Friday at 120 Dubois St. in Santa Cruz. To join, drop in, call 831-226-3547 or email [email protected]

To attend the open house, find details and the RSVP form online. Details are also on Encompass’ website and Encompass’ Instagram account @TransitionAgeYouth.

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Nicklas Balboa

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Nicklas Balboa is a reporter from San Mateo County. He has previously reported for Digiday Media.