Youth Villages stories

“I was in, I guess, what you’d call a permanent depressed state,” Olivia said.

She was living with an abusive boyfriend and felt she couldn’t leave, couldn’t make her own decisions. “I went through a phase where I couldn’t even eat. My body stopped digesting food properly. I was malnourished.”

Olivia was receiving help through the Accelerator Y’s independent living program, but was referred to LIfeSet to get more intensive support. The Accelerator Y partners with Youth Villages for the intensive, comprehensive program, designed to help young people during the critical transition period from age 17 to 22. Click here to find out more about partnering.

The program is the largest in the country helping transition-age youth and one of the only that has proven impact on several areas of young person’s life in a randomized controlled trial. In the trial, LifeSet improved participant’s mental health and decreased partner violence.

Olivia was assigned to Helen Baker, an experienced LifeSet specialist, who immediately went to work. Baker counseled Olivia on safe boundaries and healthy relationships, using LifeSet’s clinical manual. They established safety plans around Olivia’s living arrangements and her mental health. Baker helped her connect with positive group activities. Olivia participated in the Seattle Symphony’s Prism Project that gives homeless young people a chance to express themselves and learn communication and problem-solving skills.

Baker linked Olivia to the Seattle YMCA’s other programs, including Clear Path to Employment, where she gain confidence in her ability to join the workforce.

Most importantly, Baker helped Olivia obtain a mental health provider at Family Services & Mental Health and worked together with the counselor and Olivia to help the young woman improve safety and stability. That relationship allows Olivia to get more intensive mental health support if she needs it.

“You could say she helped me maintain hope,” Olivia said. “I went through phases where I didn’t think I was going to get better. Communicating with Helen kept me afloat even in the darkest times. I had someone to stand by me.”

“Helen is with me on this path,” Olivia said. “She’s someone who is consistent. I can rely on her.”

Baker has a caseload of only eight young people, allowing her to see each one face-to-face every week and be available everyday by phone and text.

“LifeSet is more intensive than other programs,” Baker said. “We’re in constant communication with the young people, but also with other providers that they might be working with, therapists, employers, landlords, schools, probation officers – if they have that. We’re reaching out to people in all the systems around them.”

For Olivia, the support has made a difference. She’s back living with her mother, but will be looking for a place of her own at some point. She’s only a few credits short of an associate’s degree and is considering an application to Seattle University to go farther.

“Things are looking better,” she says.

About LifeSet

Youth Villages has helped nearly 12,000 young people through the program since it began in 1999. LifeSet is one of the largest programs helping transition-age young people in the country and one of the only to show, positive impacts in multiple areas of a young person’s life in a large randomized trial. A five-year study by MDRC showed that LifeSet decreases homelessness, increases employment and earnings, increases mental health and decreases domestic violence. The community-based program pairs young people with specialists who are specifically trained in navigating the complexities of the transition to adulthood. Specialists have small caseloads and see young people face-to-face at least once each week, helping them set and achieve their goals around housing, transportation, education, employment, health and relationships through experiential learning.

Learn more at

The Accelerator Y

The Accelerator YMCA provides holistic support to young people and their families who have experienced trauma to help them be safe, successful, and happy.