The Santa Fe Youth Shelter: An Inside Look


Lance Ulibarri

My personal experience being at the Youth Emergency Shelter has been a challenge considering that I’ve lived at the shelter five times in the past year.

In case you don’t know, the shelter is for kids who usually are in CYFD custody and have no place to go, or for kids who end up in detention. Usually it is court ordered to go for a certain amount of time.

The youth shelter is not as bad as it seems. The staff who work there are kind, respectful, and helpful to kids who are in tough situations like myself.

My situation is not like most of the kids who live at the shelter. How I ended up there was by mistakes that I’ve made in the past and in the present day. What happened the first couple of times was I was sent to detention for charges of destruction of property and “coming out dirty’’ on a urine drug test.

Most of the kids at the shelter are nice and respectful. Almost every time that I’ve been there I was not disrespected or tested into almost getting into a fight. The only time I was in a fight was because a “wannabe” gang member tried to get me when I wasn’t looking. The end result of the fight was the kid getting kicked out and then I got kicked out the next day.

Usually the number of kids is between five to six girls and six to seven boys. It is a variety of all ages from 8- to 17-year-olds. The youngest person that I knew at the shelter was an 11-year-old girl, and the oldest girl I knew was an 18-year-old, who was there for a while because of her situation. 

The way I feel about the shelter is different from what most everyone else feels. Most of the kids there are angry and sad and have a lot of mixed emotions. It’s tough being away from family for Thanksgiving or your birthday, and spending Christmas in jail means not being able to give your mom a hug on Christmas Day because of your previous charges.

But the shelter honestly makes me think a lot about life and what I can do to change myself so I can have a better future.