YouthCare was founded in 1974 by a couple named JoAnn and Larry Sims. Two pivotal events exposed the couple and their community to the trauma of youth homelessness and motivated them to take action.
The first incident occurred after JoAnn, Larry, and their fellow church members encountered a teenage girl in their church parking lot who had run away from a volatile situation at home. Struggling with substance abuse, the young woman was hospitalized. Community members were shocked to learn that, following her recovery, she was arrested by police rather than offered treatment or services.
The second event occurred months later when a young girl and her two-year-old brother knocked on JoAnn and Larry’s front door saying their mother had left them and they needed help. Both incidents raised urgent questions about who was responsible for the safety and care of young people with no stable parents or place to live.
JoAnn and Larry took it upon themselves to be part of the solution. They went to their community members, proposing they sell the church building and use the proceeds to open a youth shelter. While they were met with initial reluctance, the couple persevered, planting the seeds of conviction and passion that sustain YouthCare to this day: all youth are worthy, never give up, do whatever it takes to save lives, and stand up for justice at every turn.
In 1974, the church sold its building for $40,000 and opened one of the first shelters for runaway and homeless youth on the West Coast.
- 1974: A group of concerned citizens pools their resources to create a three-bed shelter for runaway and homeless youth.
- 1989: YouthCare opens Straley House, now Catalyst, one of the first low-barrier transitional housing programs for homeless youth in the region.
- 1998: YouthCare opens Isis at Ravenna House, the first transitional housing program in Washington State to focus on the unique needs of homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
- 2010: YouthCare partners with the City of Seattle, the King County Prosecutor’s Office, and others to open the Bridge Program, the first residential recovery program in the Pacific Northwest for sexually exploited youth.
- 2011: YouthCare receives the Seattle Human Rights award, an annual award presented by the Seattle Human Rights Commission.
- 2016: YouthCare fields a landmark gift from Paul G. Allen to open the Paul G. Allen Hope Center at YouthCare, with 14 emergency shelter beds for youth under the age of 18. This doubles the number of beds available for minors in the City of Seattle from 12 to 26.
- 2019: YouthCare expands to 14 sites across Seattle, serving over 1,500 young people every year.