On my fourth day as a new YouthCare staff member, I visited the University District Youth Center (UDYC), YouthCare’s engagement center located in the University District. I didn’t know what to expect, but from the moment I stepped inside I felt a sweetness and comfort in the air.

I walked in, seeing beautiful and bright smiles on the staff member’s faces as they eagerly showed us around. We walked around the big yellow house and met people from the leadership team all the way down to the staff members on the ground, working with young people each day on their healing and goals. Everyone had a beautiful smile on their face, talking with a hop on their step and joy in their voice.

UDYC makes it their mission to practice joy with everything they do. They practice joy while providing young people a safe place to rest, with culturally important food on tap.

Recently, they began hosting Movie Days every Wednesday! All day long, young people get a chance to blow off steam by selecting their own favorite movies to watch, while Ron, UDYC’s meal coordinator, cooks up snacks and food. Last week’s meals included hearty lasagna.

A plate of Lasagna

UDYC plays an important role in helping young people believe that there is so much more to life than the ongoing struggle of being homeless—that it is okay to have fun, to laugh, to blow off steam, and just to be happy in the moment.

To our youth: you are more than your situation. It does not define you and even if it is the most depressing thing, staying resilient in the face of tribulation by taking every opportunity to practice joy and rest at every chance you get is so unbelievably beautiful. I felt the joy just beam off the walls. I felt an air of comfort wrap around us as if it were a wool blanket on a cold winter night. It felt cozy and pleasurable. I felt the joy become an embodiment of what UDYC strives to achieve every single day. That practice of resilience and joy is what makes UDYC an increasingly important place for the young people to heal and begin to thrive.