2011 Annual Report
A Message From Our Leadership
As we pulled together the information for this annual report, we realized that 2011 was a year marked by achievement and celebration, as well as one of the most challenging in our history.
YouthCare’s strength lies in our ability to offer programs that knit together a “continuum of care” – a coordinated set of individually appropriate services that begin with young people on the street and go on to get homeless youth off the street and preparing for life. In 2011, we celebrated anniversaries of three of those programs:
- May 2011 marked the first year of operation of the Bridge Program: the only program in the Pacific Northwest, and one of a handful in the nation, offering emergency shelter and long-term housing dedicated to minors who have experienced sexual exploitation.
- In January, we celebrated the first anniversary of YouthCare’s YouthBuild, a six-month program in which young people acquire skills in the construction trades while completing their secondary education. Through partnership with Habitat for Humanity, they also give back to the community by helping to build low-income housing. We are constantly struck by the simple rightness of what this program offers: a chance for a recently homeless youth to know what it feels like to give someone else a place to call home.
- Back in January of 2010, thanks to the generous support of the Raynier Institute and Foundation, we opened the Young Adult Shelter at the James W. Ray Orion Center for youth 18–24. For nearly two years, now, we’ve had to turn young people away seven nights a week. With our 15 beds, we roughly doubled the number available to hundreds in need, every night. It’s a start.
As for the challenges we’ve faced: chief among them has been this ongoing spike in sheer demand. It started shortly after the onset of the financial crisis and there’s no sign of it ending soon. In 2009, we served just under 13,000 meals; by 2011, that number had jumped to nearly 25,000.
Yet, in this time of greatest need, we face cuts to vital programs. State and federal lawmakers are focusing on cuts to social service spending in order to balance budgets in lean economic times. Though YouthCare’s direct funding has been spared so far, many of our partners haven’t been so lucky. As they reduce their services, our young people have fewer opportunities to get the help and support they need to become healthy, independent adults. In response, we are working hard to let our elected officials know how important human services programs are to the most vulnerable in our community, and to ask them to preserve funding for these critical services.
Meanwhile, threats to funding only increase our determination that homeless children and youth be safe and supported. As this community rises to the challenge, YouthCare continues to show and prepare the way. In 2011, we helped establish important networks among our sister agencies and other community stakeholders in order to improve efficiency and ensure that homeless youth can quickly access essential local services. And, when King County joined the national Safe Place initiative this year, we stepped forward as lead service agency and “first responder.”
The Safe Place model involves creating an identifiable network of sites, from designated public buildings to youth-friendly businesses and beyond, where young people can ask for help and be immediately connected with those who provide it. It can even include local transit systems: when bus drivers are trained and given the right number to call, every bus turns into a mobile safe place. This is a logical, effective way to reach the young people before they become truly lost on our streets – and I’m pleased to report that, as of this year, when King County Metro and Sound Transit Express drivers encounter a youth in crisis, it’s YouthCare that takes that call.
We particularly like the Safe Place initiative because, as it grows, these young people will, more and more, see literal signs all across this community — signs telling them that the community cares, that it’s there to help, and that they don’t have to be alone. The effect will be inestimable and very real.
Your continued involvement and support sends the same message. We thank you for it, on behalf of YouthCare and of those we serve, together.