Outreach and Basic Needs: First Steps to Safety
YouthCare serves thousands of this community’s homeless youth every year.
Each night, youth in our community find themselves on the street for a variety of reasons. In Seattle, nearly 1,000 youth are homeless. They may sleep outside in doorways, under bridges, or in greenbelts, to attempt to stay out of the rain and cold. Besides fighting the elements, each night is spent either trying to stay out of sight or on the move, in an attempt to avoid conflict or attacks. Some are able to find temporary shelter with people who may not have their best interests in mind. These options are rarely safe and are certainly not stable. Being without a safe place to stay opens youth and young adults up to the possibility of being pulled into harmful and illegal activities. These young people start their day weary, hungry, and dirty, trying to get by with no ability to focus on the future or how to get off the streets permanently.
YouthCare outreach specialists go out many days and nights to the streets of Seattle to connect with homeless youth. They hand out snacks and survival supplies, keeping an eye out for new arrivals and continuing contact with young people they’ve already met. Through these specialists and word of mouth, many young adults and teens are able to find their way to YouthCare.
YouthCare has two drop-in locations from which homeless youth ages 13 to 24 can meet the basic needs of survival. The James W. Ray Orion Center in Downtown Seattle is able to provide 3 meals a day, 5 days a week, along with showers, laundry services, and basic clothing, hygiene and first aid supplies. Each night, Orion provides 20 beds for adults 18-24, which are given out by lottery. Meanwhile in the University District, the University District Youth Center (also known as UDYC) provides a daily lunch, material necessities, and sanitary services, in a safe space for youth who spend so much time fearful and on the move. Orion and UDYC provide access to case workers who can assist youth with access to education, housing services, and employment training programs such as the Tile Project and Barista at Orion and the Zine employment training program at UDYC. Both locations also offer recreational services where youth can read, play games, do homework, and chat with other youth and positive adult role models. YouthCare also provides access to medical care, legal services, and drug and alcohol counseling.
Meeting basic needs and reaching out to youth is the first step but it is incredibly crucial. Each night spent with YouthCare is a night of safety in which youth can begin to build their lives away from the stresses and dangers of homelessness.