The Empowerment Center

The Empowerment Center is a day drop-in center that provides an open space for young adults to participate in the creation of an intentional community. Using the Sanctuary model of trauma-informed care, we work hard every day to foster a safe, supportive environment and to facilitate the development of healing relationships.

The Center is a warm, welcoming space that offers folks aged 13 to 24 a youth-centered refuge from the stress of the street. Young folks are welcome to stop by the Center for a hot meal, to watch TV, play cards, use a computer, participate in a group activity or simply relax with a book.

How do I join?

Simply walk in to the Empowerment Center any day during our open hours and let one of our staff know that you are visiting Y-HEP for the first time. One of our staff will meet with you one-on-one for a brief intake interview during which you will complete paperwork, learn about our programs and services, and schedule a follow-up meeting with a Prevention Counselor. Once your paperwork is complete, you are free to join any groups or activities being offered, or simply relax in the Center and meet new people!

Amenities and Services

The Empowerment Center supports young adults in meeting some of their basic needs by offering:

  • 1-2 meals served per day
  • Shower access
  • Laundry services
  • Personal care items distributed (socks, underwear, toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, etc).
  • Selection from our closet full of gently-used clothing
  • Emergency food cupboard
  • Safer sex supplies
  • Tokens provided for travel on public transportation


Participants may take a shower during Drop-In hours, or by appointment during off-hours.

The basics:

  1. To shower, write your name on the sign-in sheet (kept at the front desk with the other sign-in sheets).
  2. Shower order is first-come, first-served.
  3. Everyone is allowed 15 minutes in the shower.
  4. We provide towels and washrags for use in the shower. These belong to Y-HEP and MUST be left in the laundry hamper provided in the shower room.
  5. The shower room has dispensers of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, and mouthwash. Any other amenities requested can be given to you before you enter the shower.
  6. Please clean up after yourself, and leave the shower room ready for the next person’s use. There are post-shower cleaning instructions posted on the wall, and cleaning products accessible for your use.

Laundry services

Y-HEP participants may drop-off one bag of laundry to be washed and dried. You should expect to pick up your clean laundry one week later.

  • Please make sure that you have emptied all pockets before leaving clothes to be laundered.
  • The staff person receiving the laundry will fill out a Laundry tag, staple it to the bag, and place the bag in the laundry room hamper. The laundry tag should include:
  1. Your full name;
  2. The date/time that the laundry was dropped off.
  • Each participant’s laundry is washed as its own load.
  • For safety, all laundry is washed in hot water. Please keep this in mind if you have clothes that are delicate or should not be washed in hot water with light colors.
  • You must pick up your laundry one week after you drop it off. After two weeks, unclaimed clean laundry will be folded and added to the Clothing Closet.

Personal Care Items

Y-HEP’s Empowerment Center distributes basic personal care amenities. To receive amenities, you must sign the “Amenities Sign-In” sheet that is displayed on the front desk.

  • Please mark the corresponding box to indicate exactly which amenities you are requesting.
  • When requesting socks or underwear, please indicate which type of underwear you would like- traditionally male (boxer shorts) or female (panties) by writing either “M” or “F.” You should also write the size that you want- “S, M, L, XL, Plus” next to the gender.

There are certain amenities that you are welcome to take with you, while others are meant for in-house use.

In-house amenities:

  • Large bottles of body lotion
  • Baby powder
  • Large bottles of shampoo and conditioner
  • Razors and shaving cream
  • Large aerosol cans of spray deodorant
  • Large tubes of toothpaste

To-go amenities:

  • Toothbrushes, travel-size toothpaste and dental floss
  • Combs
  • Travel size deodorant
  • Tampons and maxi pads
  • Q-tips
  • Face cleaning pads
  • Any travel-size shampoo, conditioner, soap, mouthwash, etc..


You can request amenities every day, with two exceptions:

  • Socks
  • Underwear

Socks and underwear are given one time per person each week.

Clothing Closet

  • Y-HEP participants are welcome to choose items from the Clothing Closet one time each week.
  • In order to enter the Clothing Closet, you should sign your name on the Clothing Closet sign-in sheet and then wait for the staff member or volunteer who is in charge of the closet to call you.
  • A maximum of two people are permitted to be in the closet at once.
  • No bags are allowed in the closet. The staff/volunteer attending can hold your bags for you while you are in the closet.
  • Please leave the closet even more beautiful than you found it! We need everyone’s help to keep the Clothing Closet clean.


We are always happy to accept donations for our closet, from companies, organizations or individuals. We especially need men’s clothing.

To donate, please contact Don Russell, Program Director,


At Y-HEP, we provide SEPTA tokens to our participants. We do this because we want to make it possible for you to get home from Y-HEP and return again when you choose.

If you come to Y-HEP and stay for at least one hour, we will give you one token when you leave. You can receive one additional token for participating in certain approved activities. Two tokens is the maximum anyone may receive in one day. Qualifying activities include:

  • Attending an appointment with a therapist
  • Attending a scheduled meeting with a Prevention Counselor or other approved staff member.
  • Participating in a group (this does not include daily Community Meeting)
  • Working in the volunteer program.
  • Helping to maintain the Drop-In Center space by completing a task or chore. These tasks must be specifically assigned by a Y-HEP staff member, and the staff member must verify that you have finished the task before you receive your tokens.
  • Certain types of Health Center visits. Please verify with the clinic staff whether or not your visit qualifies for tokens.
  • Getting an HIV test

Tokens are distributed from the front desk of the Empowerment Center.

Participants will receive a maximum of two tokens per day.

The Participant Volunteer Team

We believe that it is crucial that staff and participants share the experience and responsibility of managing the Empowerment Center. Our volunteer team works hard to ensure that the daily functions of the Center run smoothly.

Volunteers help to plan and prepare meals, manage the clothing closet, distribute amenities and clean and decorate the space. The shared responsibility of caring for the Empowerment Center improves staff-participant relationships, increases participants’ sense of investment in the success of the community as a whole, and contributes to making the Empowerment Center a place that is youth-driven and focused.

The Volunteer Team is made up of current Y-HEP participants. There is an application and interview process that all interested applicants must complete in order to be considered.

For more information, contact Kay Cohen, Community Relations Liaison,