When it comes to homeless youth in Seattle, the numbers are staggering.
About one out of every 16 students in area schools is homeless, a rate that has increased 55 percent since 2012. Meanwhile, the King County Committee to End Homelessness estimates between 5,000 and 10,000 young adults experience unstable housing each year. And up to 60 percent of homeless youth have experienced physical abuse in their lives.
What can be done? Where can these kids go?
One sanctuary: the YMCA of Greater Seattle, which is currently the largest provider for housing for homeless youth in King County, WA. Its housing programs serve 250 kids on any given night, whether it’s giving them transitional housing, rental assistance or transition support for those who have aged out of foster care.
But the Accelerator housing program at the Y goes beyond simply putting a roof over someone’s head.
“We pride ourselves on being a holistic provider,” says Emily Meltzer, Accelerator YMCA’s Director of Development. “A young person might come in looking for a job, but we can also provide them with mental health services, help them get a GED or take care of legal issues in the criminal justice system, all of these services in one place.”
From Homeless to Hopeful
Robert was living on the Seattle streets for seven months, having struck out on his own after he turned 18 and aged out of foster care. He never knew where he was going to sleep from night to night. But when he came across the Y, he realized that there was another path for him. The program — along with a caseworker named David — stabilized Robert’s living situation, paid for a deposit on an apartment and helped him get a job at Chipotle. He is now prepping for a training program in construction, with an eye on going back to school, all with assistance from the Y. Robert tells Giving Compass he made “a lot of friends” at the program, and he’s continuing a passion for visual arts on his own now: “I like to draw what I see.”
Success stories like Robert are just one reason the Seattle Y recently received a $25,000 grant from the Starbucks Upstanders Challenge, which will be spent toward its housing program. The Accelerator also has big plans to expand its programs in 2018, including onboarding 175 new foster families in the next three years.
In addition, the Y will continue work in many other areas, including the program Alive and Free, which helps young people involved in gang violence make a change in their lives thanks to outreach workers who have been in similar situations, and the Children’s Crisis Outreach Response system, which provides assistance to parents dealing with domestic violence and other traumas.
“They give you hope,” says Jaelyn, another young man who bounced from system to system before receiving a lift from the Y. “They don’t quit on you, even when you quit on you.”
Learn More About The Homeless Youth Crisis
The YMCA of Greater Seattle is supported by the Medina Foundation and the Raikes Foundation, which has a keen focus on addressing homeless youth. You can get more information about the scope of the problem and the progress being made in this case study: “Lessons From Five years of Systems-focused Grantmaking in King County, Washington.”
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