DPR Construction Renovates Youth Assistance Coalition Drop-in Center in San Diego

The nonprofit Youth Assistance Coalition (YAC) began out of founder Heather Lezon’s car. Serving youth experiencing homelessness in San Diego, a team of volunteers spent more than a year conducting outreach on wheels before transitioning operations to a storage unit and eventually a small office. Three years later, the organization expanded into a large warehouse where volunteers provide social support, meals, connections to resources, tutoring, and mentoring.

DPR Construction and trade partners recently donated labor, materials and equipment to complete the renovation of the organization’s 4,900-sq.-ft. headquarters.

Over the course of three months, DPR’s self-perform workers and local trade partners focused on framing and drywall, doors and hardware, and concrete in the facility. The youth drop-in resource center was further built out with electrical upgrades, an ADA shower and bathroom, a kitchenette, a washing machine and dryer hookups, a patio and storage rooms.

Lezon said the organization had been considering the updates for more than a year.

“I thought DPR would help with a bathroom or the kitchen. Instead, they agreed to help with the whole tenant improvement. It's still baffling and amazing,” said Youth Assistance Coalition founder Heather Lezon. “DPR guided us through the permitting process, helped with the procurement process and provided strategic support through all stages of construction. The moment our permits were approved, the DPR team was onsite within two weeks.”

[Left image] Open warehouse space; [right image] Kitchenette with wraparound counter
Before and after photos of the Youth Assistance Coalition headquarters. With the addition of a kitchenette, volunteers will be able to serve hot meals to homeless youth. Photo: Dolores Esparza

DPR Construction field office coordinator Dolores Esparza said the renovations were an opportunity to help the Youth Assistance Coalition optimize its operations.

“I grew up a few blocks from the new resource center and have seen firsthand how great the need is for high-impact programs like this,” said Esparza. “Changing how an organization can use its space maximizes its impact in the community. Appropriate lighting makes it easier for volunteers to help youth with homework and job applications. The new kitchenette allows the team to prep and serves warm dinners each night.”

Construction worker pours concrete into a wheelbarrow
Over the course of 3 months, DPR’s self-perform workers and local trade partners focused on framing and drywall, doors and hardware and concrete in the facility. Photo: Matt Pranzo

Lezon said the collaboration with DPR will help the Youth Assistance Coalition move forward in its mission and better serve youth in the community.

“Our barren warehouse has become a more comfortable and functional space,” said Lezon. “The kids take pride in our center and feel safe here. For now, this is their home.”

Facility construction and renovation projects support DPR’s philanthropic vision of building possibilities for the under-resourced, particularly through skills-based volunteering. Philanthropy is one of the company’s four Pillars of Global Social Responsibility, which also includes People, Planet and Partners.

Two people cut an opening ceremony ribbon
Youth Assistance Coalition founder Heather Lezon and DPR Construction’s Dolores Esparza cut the ribbon during a grand reveal ceremony for the nonprofit’s newly renovated headquarters in San Diego. Photo: Caitlin Coomber
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