At the 412 Youth Zone in Downtown Pittsburgh.

At-risk youth can now access a variety of services through 412 Youth Zone, a new drop-in center launched by the McKeesport-based nonprofit Auberle.

On March 16, Auberle, a Catholic organization that has worked to help area families and children for more than 60 years, hosted a dedication ceremony for 412 Youth Zone. Located on two floors of the Community Human Services (CHS) Wood Street Commons Building in Downtown Pittsburgh, the 13,000-square-foot center provides a stable environment where young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 can concentrate on getting their lives in order, says Auberle CEO John Lydon.

“While we all have an occasion where we feel unsafe, few of us experience that feeling 24 hours a day, but many of our youth do,” says Lydon. “Without creating a safe space, youth cannot access and follow through on services.”

Developed in partnership with Allegheny County’s Department of Human Services along with the Homeless Children’s Education Fund,  412 Youth Zone will primarily serve as a resource for homeless teens and for young adults making the transition from foster care to independent living. The center houses multiple programs and amenities in one accessible location, including medical services and prevention education provided by UPMC nursing students and staff from Children’s Hospital, and free child care for young parents.

In addition, visitors can utilize on-site shower and laundry facilities, grab a hot meal, or take advantage of the reading area, which is stocked with books donated by AmeriCorps and the Allegheny County Library Association. Lydon adds that they are also in the process of building a music recording studio and video game design area.

In the short time since 412 Youth Zone opened, Lydon says many visitors have obtained employment through the center’s workforce development training program. He hopes that success stories like these, in combination with reaching out to the community through Auberle’s 38 partners and social media, will attract more disadvantaged young people to the center.

“We are benefiting now from great word of mouth from youth who have used the 412 Youth Zone and bring one or two friends to their next visit,” says Lydon.

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.