Celebrating 50 Years

Landmarks in Our History

Founded 50 years ago as one of the nation’s first shelters for homeless youth, we now serve more than 28,000 youth every year. Learn about the landmarks in our history:

50 Years of Building Futures

Shelter Feature

New Development for Homeless Youth

Gov. Newsom signed series of bills addressing youth homelessness, which San Diego Youth Services was instrumental in developing together with the California Coalition for Youth. The legislation includes expansion of the number of nights youth can stay at underage shelters, such as our Youth Emergency Shelter, to 90 consecutive days.

Expanded Services for Domestic Violence

Expanded support for youth experiencing domestic violence, integrating domestic violence services and another layer of short-term and emergency housing resources for domestic violence survivors.  


Homeless Youth Act Signed

Gov. Brown signed the Homeless Youth Act of 2018, requiring the state Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council to set measurable goals and map progress toward ending youth homelessness. San Diego Youth Services was a key partner in getting the bill passed, together with the California Coalition for Youth.

Grant to Expand Youth Services

Federal government awarded the San Diego Regional Task Force on the Homeless largest grant award in the nation to expand housing and services for youth experiencing homelessness, with San Diego Youth Services as the lead partner.

Homeless Youth

New Funding for Homeless Youth

Began leading a new, comprehensive program for homeless youth in San Diego County with partner organizations, 2.5 million in new state funding.

Expanded Housing for Transition Age Youth

Expanded Housing for Transition Age Youth

Purchased new building on El Cajon Boulevard and expanded services as College Heights Youth Center, including 10 additional apartments for transition age youth.

OSP Dropin

Providing a Safe Place

Opened drop-in center combined with mental health services to provide a safe place for LGBTQ+ youth who often experience non-supportive and even hostile environments in their homes, schools and community.


Model for Counting Homeless Youth

Selected as lead agency to develop and implement a new, more accurate model for counting and identifying youth living on the streets and experiencing homelessness. This is now the model for the Youth Point-in-Time Count in San Diego County. The landmark followed San Diego being selected as one of 22 communities in the nation to participate in Chapin Hall’s Voices of Youth Count Initiative at the University of Chicago.


Housing Services for Youth

Purchased 13-unit affordable housing facility on El Cajon Boulevard in East County for transition age youth.


Suicide Prevention Services

Launched a multi-level suicide prevention and early intervention program for children, teens and young adults in school settings.

Camp Mariposa 2013

Substance Abuse Prevention Camp

Opened Camp Mariposa, the first of its kind free mentoring and addiction prevention camp in San Diego for youth affected by a family member’s substance abuse.


Services for Transition Age Youth

Opened TAY Academy, a drop-in center and centralized hub of resources and services for transition age youth, including former foster youth, out-of-home probation youth and youth experiencing homelessness.

Johnson Street

Providing Affordable Housing

Purchased 10-unit affordable housing facility on Johnson Street in El Cajon for transition age youth.

PEI Child Services

Community Center for Youth

Opened Spring Valley and East Communities Center, the first and only initiative of its kind in San Diego where an abandoned school was converted into a comprehensive community center. Purchased the property in 2016.


Expanded Affordable Housing

Expanded housing for transition age youth with purchase of 10-unit affordable housing facility on Fir Street.

Girls crossing arms

First Sex Trafficking Services for Youth

Opened the first services in San Diego for adolescent survivors of commercial sexual exploitation and sex trafficking, with case management, support groups, emergency response, mental health services, a safe drop-in center.


Continued Affordable Housing Expansion

Added 25 additional units of affordable transitional housing for youth emancipating from foster care.

counselor talking to teen boy

First Mental Health Services for Youth

Opened the first mental health service program in San Diego designed specifically to meet the needs of homeless youth experiencing mental health difficulties.

First Group Home for Deaf Foster Youth

Opened the first and only residential group home in Southern California for deaf foster youth.

Affordable Housing Continuum

Opened 8 apartments in Normal Heights for former foster youth at-risk of homelessness, providing the next phase in our continuum of housing and support for transition age youth.  


NFL After School Program for Youth

Extended partnership with the National Football League for an additional five years and created San Diego’s second “NFL Youth Education Town” offering after-school programs to youth in danger of dropping out of school.


NFL Partnership for Youth

Selected by the National Football League to create its San Diego “NFL Youth Education Town”, a unique, 5-year partnership bringing after-school programs to youth in danger of dropping out of school. The NFL implemented this national model in all its Super Bowl cities.

Adoption parent and children

First Adoptions Support Services for Families

Established the first and only adoptions support program in San Diego to provide an array of support services to families who have or are in the process of adopting.


Additional Housing for Youth

Opened 3 additional affordable housing units in North Park for transition age youth.

First Transitional Housing Services for Youth

First Transitional Housing Services for Youth

Opened the first transitional housing services in San Diego with 33 apartments in Point Loma for youth transitioning into adulthood who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.  

Teen Recovery Center

Substance Abuse Services

Opened the first teen recovery center in San Diego, helping teens with alcohol and substance abuse problems to stay drug and alcohol free.

Volunteer Engagement

Launched Volunteer Services

Launched the “Volunteer Project,” forerunner of “SDYS Volunteer Services.” More than $1 million worth of volunteer time is contributed annually by hundreds of volunteers.

Three mixed ethnicity children slider

First Foster Care Support Service

Opened the first Foster Family Agency (FFA), treatment level foster care program, in San Diego to provide safe homes, enhanced treatment and support services for youth with higher needs.

SDYS Founding Logo

Founded as Shelter for Homeless Youth

Opened the first emergency shelter for runaway and homeless youth in San Diego, one of only three in the nation. Incorporated as San Diego Youth Services, a nonprofit charitable organization.