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Community & Behavioral Health | Recovery | Social Change


Changing the Conversation

Ayala Livny

Ayala Livny
Ayala Livny has worked in homeless services with men, families, children, and young adults to improve health outcomes and navigate systems since 1995. She spent eleven years as the Program Manager at Youth on Fire, a drop-in center for homeless youth and young adults ages 14-24 in Cambridge, MA and now trains for the Center for Social Innovation. Her focus has been on creating safe and welcoming spaces that incorporate Harm Reduction, HIV prevention, trauma-informed care, and positive youth development practices.
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Recent Posts

Dealing with Frustration & Heartbreak while Supporting Clients

This is a poem I come back to over and over again. I found it years ago, and every time I look at it, it seems to resonate in new ways.

After some days of supporting clients, it’s the “immense responsibility and very little authority” that catches me. After other days, it’s about “resounding triumphs and devastating failures.” And still other days, it’s about “always be[ing] frustrated.”

My frustration is sometimes directed at the systems. Why are they so complicated? Why do they set people up to fail? Why don’t they support people the way they should?

Sometimes, quite honestly, my frustration is directed at the people with whom I am working. Why did she go back to her abusive partner? Why did he spend his $10,000 settlement in a month? Why did he pay his phone bill, but not his rent? Why did she use again?

Homeless Youth Speak Out: 8 Tips for Service Providers

I recently developed a training for future homeless shelter staff with members of Y2Y Harvard Square's Young Adult Advisory Council. After discussing past mistakes service providers have made in interacting with them, we put their words of wisdom and advice on paper. Our goal was to catalyze productive conversations between service providers and users.

Riding the Legislative Roller Coaster: Funding for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Securing legislative funding to address homelessness can feel like a roller coaster. In Massachusetts, provider and peer activists have spent the last five years fighting for resources for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, with ups and downs along the way.

Seven Things Homeless Youth Taught Me about Working with Homeless Youth

My journey working with homeless young adults began eleven years ago. I interviewed for a case manager position at Youth on Fire (YOF), a daytime drop-in center for homeless young adults ages 14-24 in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. I had just moved from the Midwest, and remember saying to YOF’s youth hiring committee, “I don’t know the resources around here yet, but I can promise that if you let me into your lives, I will be the biggest cheerleader you’ve ever had.” They did let me into their lives, and over the next eleven years, they taught me not simply to cheer for them, but how to support them as they navigated through the world. Below are some of the most important lessons I learned in over a decade of sharing laughter and tears, tragedy and triumph, and despair and hope with an incredible community of young people.