Emergency Shelter: Never Just a Bed
Emergency shelter programs offer us a chance to establish relationships and provide and coordinate services.
Young Adult Shelter at the Orion Center
Seven nights a week, we draw names out of a bowl to see who will get one of 20 beds. That's about half the beds available to this population in our community, unless you count the adult shelters, which can be dangerous for 18-24 year olds. It's not enough for the crowd we just served dinner at the Orion Center, and a drop in the bucket when measured against the hundreds out there. So, they wait to hear who will get in … and every night we send all but 20 back out. This handful get what hundreds need: a little respite. They’ll find a quiet corner, play an old piano, or bicker about what movie should play in the TV pit. They’ll look through the clothes we can offer, do their laundry, take a shower … and either think about the day ahead, or try not to. Maybe they’ll feel like talking, and we'll have a chance to try to line up further services. In the morning, they’ll have breakfast — along with all those other young people who just spent the night who knows where.
The Young Adult Shelter opened in January 2010 thanks to the generous support of the Raynier Institute and Foundation, and has operated at capacity every night since.
The Adolescent Shelter
YouthCare runs the only short-term emergency shelter in Seattle for homeless youth aged 12–17. This may be the first safe place a child has entered in months. Some, thanks to our profile on the street, find us within hours. A good thing, too. As many as one in three homeless youth (of all ages) are solicited for sex within 72 hours of hitting the streets, or offered supposed help and shelter — with something else entirely in store for them. We're able to offer 12 beds: once again, far from enough. (Unaccompanied minors younger than 12 — of whom there are more than bears contemplating — are handled elsewhere in our social service systems.) When they reach us, many want only to go home; nearly a third do, but not until we work with police and other agencies and authorities to make sure it’s safe. Many shouldn't — and we find them a safe place.
Adolescent Shelter receives funding from Solid Ground, the City of Seattle, King County, United Way of King County, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families.
Casa de los Amigos
This federally funded program provides an alternative to adult detention for undocumented youth (12–17) awaiting determination of their status. Many were brought to this country by family and had no choice in the matter. Many made that decision on their own. Many were trafficked in — perhaps to end up working in a marijuana field at the point of a gun, or in other forms of effective slavery and exploitation. Many were fleeing war zones. They come from all over the world, for different reasons and in different ways. To us, they are homeless youth, brought to us by Immigration and Customs Enforcement with next to nothing. Most now want only to be reunited with their families. Others know they will never see their families again. While they are with YouthCare, waiting for an immigration court's decision, they receive case management, medical and mental health care, education, and legal services.