Helping Homeless Youth 1 Bar of Soap at a Time in San Diego

Eric Lovett

 ~ Founder and Executive Director of Urban Street Angels and 8 West, helping homeless youth from around the country, who inhabit the streets of San Diego's seemingly idyllic Ocean Beach

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A Sweet-Smelling Old Building? 

When you walk into the old building behind the church on Polk Street, yes, it looks like any community center building that could use a face lift.  But then, when you notice the cots in the back corner, and the tables of folded clothes, the welcome signing signs, and the few young smiling faces you know something more happens here.  And then there is the smell of the soap......what? Well, we are at the 8West headquarters.  It may not look like much, but they are doing thing for homeless youth that reaches much farther than the beautiful smell of the soap they make there. 

The 8 West company was born out of the Urban Street Angels organization here in San Diego.  The Urban Street Angels have been serving the homeless community here in San Diego.  They go out 8 times per month delivering both food and hygiene kits to people in need.  That's great, right?  Well, they felt they could do more, especially when they were finding that so many of the people in need of their assistance were young adults.  In San Diego, there are over 3,000 homeless young people aged 18-26.  Over 3,000 - just here in San Diego!!! That's tragic!  There are so many paths to homelessness at that age.  It can range from having escaped an abusive household when they were younger, to having lost a job and not being able to support themselves, to having the parents abandon them, to having been raised by a homeless parent, to having "aged out" of the foster care system without knowledge or access to transitional aged youth (TAY) services.  

When Eric Lovett, the Founder and Executive Director of Urban Street Angels started noticing this trend of young people living on the streets, he wanted to do more......but what?

8West is born

It started with him opening up his own home to a few of the young men to give them shelter and a place to call home.  Then he would try to connect them to jobs in the community.  This task, however beneficial to those few he could personally assist, was overwhelming when he thought of the need of all the other young people living on the streets.  He wanted to help solve the problem, not patch it with a band-aid.  He knew he needed to help find a way for these young people to not only have a place to call home, but he wanted to be able to provide them with job skills that would be not only practical but would also give them a sense of pride.   He ran through a few different actual business ideas with his colleagues and eventually decided on forming a company that would make beautiful soaps and be contained within a sustainable business model.  Out of this idea, the 8West company was born. The youth would get housing and food and would work at the soap company to learn the trade skills and the business skills they could use in their future life.  

8 west retail
8 West team members showing off their fabulous retail items: soaps, baseball caps and canvas totes.

 

What does the 8 West company look like now? 

Through the sales of their soap and some generous donations, they now have 2 homes for the 18-26 year old young people in need.  They can now house 12 young adults- 6 female and 6 male.  Eric also found that there were not a lot of TAY programs that were universally accepting of all people.  He found that there was a strong need for a program that would be welcoming to the LGBT (& all other identifiers) community.  He made sure that 8West was that place.  Once a week, there is an open shelter night where those in need who they just don't have the capacity to house can come and sleep, get some hygiene products, clothing, and dog food (a high percentage of the transitional age youth on the streets have dogs - sometimes for protection, other times for companionship) among other things.  

this isa homeless youth shelter in san diego
People are getting hat they need during the weekly shelter night.

 

Who makes the soap?

8 west residents making soap
8 West team members creating my favorite of their soaps: Flower Fields
8 west making displays
A few 8 West team members creating the custom soap displays from reclaimed lumber.

The house residents make the soap a few days a week.  Many of them also hold other community-based jobs as they work on saving money to try to make the most of their 9 month stay in the house.  Each bar of soap is beautifully wrapped with a custom label.  Each soap has a distinct name that is reflective of a San Diego landmark: The Kissing Statue, Sunset Cliffs, Pirates Cove, The Pier, Orchard Avenue, and my personal favorite, Flower Fields.   These young people learn about making the soap, marketing, cost pricing, ordering supplies, distribution and all other aspects that go into this business.  

8 West soap display
This is the 8 West soap display in the Coaching Through Chaos waiting room

 

Ending the Problem of Homeless Youth

faces of 8 west
Just some of the many volunteer team members at 8 West and Urban Street Angels

Eric and his team are on track to continue to open new houses in San Diego, but this progress does not come easy.  He has plans to double the amount of residential beds in the next year.  After that, well, he's love to one day be able to provide housing and skills to ANY homeless youth that needs it.  But it can only happen with community support.  That's where you can come in.  This business survives and grows only through it's soap sales or through direct donations. The shelter is in the same building as where the soap is made.  For now, they are making very good use of the space they have, but as they grow, they will eventually need a larger working facility in which to make the soap.  You can even buy the soap online.  Their online retail shop even includes baseball caps and fashionable canvas tote bags. From a bar of soap to a large contribution, every bit of support helps.  

What if your not in San Diego?

In my interview with Eric, he's quick to point out that they are not talking with me only to promote and help 8 West's efforts to end youth homelessness in San Diego.  No, he wants to help raise awareness of the overall problem of the homeless youth in our country.  You may not see them everyday, but know that there are homeless people ages 18-26 in most metropolitan communities.  Eric wants you to become aware of who is living on the streets in your community and what organizations can you connect with in your own community to help end this staggering problem. 

8west interview
Me, Eric Lovett (center) and 8 West resident Nick- you can hear his story in my podcast interview.

 

This one's personal for me...

Sometimes we never know how or when we will be struck by emotional lightning.  I was struck the day I discovered the 8West.  I had recently begin talking about some hard times in my young life that caused me to leave home at 17, just before high school graduation (you can listen to that interview here on the School of Psych Podcast).  Due to unfortunate circumstances and no where to turn that felt safe, I ended up homeless and living in my car for about 3 weeks. I was ashamed. I was depressed.  I thought I was worthless.  And that was only my experience of 3 weeks on the street! Imagine the young people who are on the street for months, or even years.  With my own past at the forefront of my recent thoughts, I wanted to find out what was close to me here in San Diego.  I discovered the 8West video on YouTube.  I knew, that moment, that I needed to get involved with this organization.  I emailed them through their website at about 6:30am.  Eric responded almost immediately.  When we met, I couldn't help but feel choked up for the girl I was at 17 with no one to turn to.  I wished there was a place I could've escaped to. Knowing that 8 West exists here in my own community is healing for me personally - to know that our culture has evolved enough to recognize that these types of programs are necessary.  They are problem solving in ways not thought of before.  Here at Coaching Through Chaos, I've made it my personal mission to help support them in any way I can - to give them a voice through the podcast interview, to help fund raise through sales of the soaps in my office, and to enlist my team of clinicians to donate time and services as needed to the young adults in the program.  I feel compelled to help.  

I hope this interview inspires you to help in your own way in your community.  

 

Resources:

1.   8West website

2.  The 8West YouTube video that inspired me to contact them.

3.  Urban Street Angels Website

4.  An Article by the government research agency SAMHSA discussing the pervasive problem of homeless Youth in the United States: The Hidden Homeless


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7 Proven Habits to Create more Success in Your LIfe

                                                                                  
When you study the lives of highly successful people, they all have similar routines in place that help them stay successful. Keep in mind that most successful people don’t measure their success by the amount of money in the bank.  No, most of the top successful people view their success through the lens of living a full, well-rounded life. Following are 7 proven success habits you can start doing today to start living the most successful life you can.

1. Get Enough Sleep   success habits include getting enough sleep

Lack of sleep can be a critical factor in how we function throughout the day or the week. Not getting enough sleep can lead to “brain fog”, weight gain (or lack of ability to lose weight when trying), sugar cravings and an over-reliance on caffeine. For as much as we all have slightly different needs, the average adult needs between 7-8 hours of sleep. You should feel rested and ready for the day when you wake. If you feel sluggish or still sleepy, you probably need to adjust your routine. Even getting too much sleep can have the same affect as not enough. You’ve probably known people who can sleep and sleep and sleep. Unless they have an underlying medical condition, we can assume their circadian rhythm is off and their body doesn’t recognize when they’ve had enough sleep. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock which regulates how much sleep you need.

What can you do?

You can do several things to keep your sleep balanced. Going to bed at the same time, all the time is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. This keeps your circadian clock regulated. Of course, there will be nights when that can’t happen. When you don’t get enough sleep one night, don’t “make up for it” by sleeping in the next day as it just throws your clock off more and it can become difficult to reset it. A regular exercise routine is recommended to ensure a good night’s sleep. The stimulation of your cardiovascular system helps regulate your body and gives it the proper signals that you need rest at the end of the day. If you have difficulty falling asleep, limiting your exposure to blue light waves can help fix that. A Harvard study demonstrated that exposure to blue light prior to sleep suppressed our secretion of melatonin, which is a hormone that influences our circadian rhythms. They recommend staying off the electronic devices for 2-3 hours prior to going to bed. However, if you can’t put it down before bedtime, turn it down. There are apps like Twilight (for Android) or f.lux (for Windows, Mac, Llinux, iPhone or iPad) which allow you to turn down the blue light so that your screen matches the time of day. They’re really helpful for those of us who struggle with putting the electronics to bed before us.

2. Cultivate Friendships

Very successful people are usually well supported people. Success is about living a full life. Without friendships, money usually isn’t very fun. Having deep connections with others takes “people skills” and emotional availability, which are also great qualities for success in business. Having someone to call when you need a break, someone to run some ideas past and someone to tell us when we are really making a bad decision when we need it are priceless.

What can you do?

Call a friend once a week. Make a lunch or coffee date with someone once a month. When you’ve got a free moment, call a friend to ask how their life is going. They will appreciate the outreach from you and you will feel supported on your path to success.

3. Make a “To-Do” List Every Night  success habits include making a list for the next day

A struggle for many successful people is shutting off their mind at the end of the night. One little hack that can make all the difference in the world is to make yourself a list of all the items swimming around in your head at night. It can be considered your “to-do” list for the next day.

What can you do?

Send yourself an email of your list. It’s a great way to keep on track. There are even apps like Evernote to record and track your lists. Doing this can really help 1. Put your mind at ease that you won’t forget something and 2. Allow you to stay organized and focused.

4. Exercise Regularly success habits include exercising regularly

I’ve not heard a story of a successful person that didn’t exercise. This does not mean that every successful person is in top physical condition, but that they understand that exercise will help keep their mind and body in sync. This mind-body connection will help them with tasks during the day like staying focused or falling asleep easily at night.

What can you do?

If you don’t have an exercise routine, just start with a 20- minute walk in the morning or the evening. Evening walks are great for mindfully reflecting on your day and letting go of stress. Morning walks can be great for motivation and planning. If you have physical limitations, check with your doctor for recommended exercises for your physical ability.

5. Write Down Goals

A study at Dominican University of California found that when people wrote down their goals, they were 42% more likely to accomplish them. We live in a world of broken resolutions and people “dreaming big”. Research would say that the dream doesn’t exactly matter unless you’ve got it defined.

What can you do?

Write down your goals. Make them clear and defined. For instance, “I want to get educated” is not a clearly defined goal. Instead, you would write, “I will apply to go to law school (nursing school, trade school, etc) by the end of this year”.

6. Give Back

Most successful people carve out time in their life for altruistic or charitable efforts. This does not mean you have to give all your money away. In fact, there are many options that only cost you your time and knowledge.

What can you do?

Volunteer. There are organizations in every community who need: helping hands (beach or street clean ups), mentors, tutors or speakers. Network within your community to see how you can start giving a bit of yourself to others.

7. Love What You Do   success habits include living  what you do

If you’re in a job right now that you don’t love, this may seem like an unattainable blanket statement, but it is not meant as one. Of course, if you can gear your life towards a career you love, it will be all that much easier to hold on to the feeling, but there are things you can do.

What can you do?

If you are in a job you don’t love right now, find something you can love about the experience. Maybe you have some great co-workers, or maybe your health benefits allow you to not worry so much about your family. There is usually something about a job situation that a person can really love. While you’re reaping the benefits of a mindset about your job, you can take some time to figure out how to tap into doing what you love to do. Maybe your job becomes a way of funding a new venture, or a side project, or a continued good stream of income for you to support your family. There are many ways to look at the same situation.

Wrapping it All Up

If you ask 10 different successful people what success means to them, they might have 10 different answers. It’s only when we look at their behaviors – what they do on any given day, that we can see the similar patterns in successful peoples’ lives. I would invite you to explore how you can implement these habits now on your path to success.

We can help YOU at Coaching Through Chaos in San Diego!

If this article resonated with you, but you find yourself lacking in the motivation to get started, or you can’t focus to stay on target of your goals, give us a call today (619) 881-0051. We can even give you a free 15-minute phone consultation. Check out CoachingThroughChaos.com to see all that we have to offer!

 

coaching through chaos podcast

Resources

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side

https://justgetflux.com/

https://evernote.com/

This post was written by Dr. Colleen Mullen, Psy.D.,LMFT. Originally posted on EverydayPowerBlog.com