Best of SA 2012 Critic Pick
Youth Alternatives gives thousands of kids new hope
Published: April 25, 2012
Roy Maas' Youth Alternatives
Roy Maas' Youth Alternatives, 3103 West Ave,
(210) 340-8077, rmya.org
Sometimes, amidst all the revelry in San Antonio this time of year, one forgets anyone is out there working to alleviate the suffering that still exists all around. And so we take a drive to clear our heads, stumbling yet again onto that little thrift store off West Avenue whose name alerts to its inherent goodwill: Roy Maas' Youth Alternatives. From street level, the modest, nondescript exterior of the building and its thrift-store use bely the breadth of services offered to troubled kids and families. Since its 1976 founding, more than 70,000 abused, neglected, and so-called high-risk young people have benefited from counseling and shelter. It's unchanged save for the name, which now references its founder, who succumbed to brain cancer in the '90s.
A closer inspection reveals the scope of services that are made possible by all those thrifty purchases. The Bridge Emergency Shelter, provides 24-hour care for up to 20 kids at a time needing short-term emergency shelter. A counseling center offering free individual and family counseling. And TurningPoint Independent Living Program prepares homeless youth for independent living. But a 40-acre Meadowland campus in the Texas Hill Country, helps as many as 80 young people at a time recover with more serious emotional issues.
"These are children with severe emotional behavioral problems because of horrible parental neglect," spokeswoman Lisa Brothers Gutierrez tells us. "Almost all the kids out there have had parental rights terminated. The reason they're with us is because they're so severely traumatized, they can't function in a regular home."
Recent funding cuts over the past year have made the already-challenging work even harder. Medicaid funding was slashed by 12 percent as the place lost $50,000 from state cuts in social programs and another $100,000 loss arrived in the wake of United Way's recession-fueled shortfalls. Ever steady, however, the place survives. A luncheon to honor volunteers served as a spontaneous fundraiser, miraculously making up for the funding loss.
Gauging the transformative nature of such programs could be viewed as an abstraction to the casual observer. Then one learns of one former, year-long Meadowland tenant — Chris Brooks, now executive chef at the Ruth's Chris Steak House and a RMYA board member — and one truly begins to understand the unbridled possibilities of the human spirit. And that's something truly worth celebrating.