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 experiencing homelessness and motivated them to take action.

The first incident occurred after community members encountered a teenage girl in their church parking lot. The young woman had run away from a volatile situation at home and was struggling with substance abuse. After being taken to the hospital, community members were shocked to learn that police had arrested her instead of offering her treatment or services.

The second incident 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 events raised urgent questions about who was responsible for the safety and care of young people who didn’t have stable homes or places to live.

JoAnn and Larry took it upon themselves to be part of the solution. They initiated the difficult conversation amongst their community members about selling their church building and using 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 youth facing homelessness on the West Coast.


vector timeline in dark blue, green, and purple blocks
  • 1974: A group of concerned citizens pools their resources to create a three-bed shelter for youth experiencing homelessness.
  • 1984: The Orion Center opens, offering a “constellation” of services for youth experiencing homelessness in partnership with 5 agencies.
  • 1989: YouthCare opens Straley House, now Catalyst, one of the first low-barrier transitional housing programs for 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 LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness.
  • 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 over a dozen sites across Seattle, serving over 1,500 young people every year.