Outcast teens find sanctuary in Bronx home; Widening Circles, by Elizabeth Lyttleton Sturz. New York: Harper & Row. 334 pp. $15.95.
They are the throwaways, young people nobody else wants. They come to Argus Community, amid the ashes of the South Bronx, numbed by incredible emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, their spirits fragmented and broken.
Few know the meaning of the words ''home'' or ''family.'' Many have turned to self-destructive behavior - drugs, attempted suicide. Many are violent. They try to appear tough, while inside they are dying, certain they can never make a life for themselves.
People and agencies that try to help often despair and turn them away - but not Elizabeth Lyttleton Sturz. She takes them into Argus. And with her simple philosophy - that given a safe environment in which adults demonstrate the ''power of a loving community,'' young people will respond in kind - she succeeds where others fail.
''Widening Circles'' documents the founding, in 1968, of the Argus Learning for Living Center. Today, some 300 troubled adolescents each year - about half of them black, the other half Hispanic - are cared for in its drop-in treatment center or its residential home for those with no suitable place to live.
Ms. Sturz traces Argus's roots to her volunteer work in antipoverty and probation programs, her faith that no child is ever lost, and her search for an ever-widening circle of personal growth. Her belief: Change behavior instead of probing causes or attaching labels.
She has contributed some unique components to the Argus structure. Adult counselors are drawn from the Bronx neighborhood; many have overcome the same traumas their teen-age charges face. The teen-agers soon learn to look after each other, love each other, pressure each other in peer groups to forsake negative influences for the positive.