SEATTLE — Youthcare is a non-profit in King County that’s helping build brighter futures for kids and teens experiencing homelessness. And they’ve got a worthy goal – one day, they hope to end homelessness entirely.
“Since that tiny start in a three-bed shelter, we have fourteen locations in Seattle serving about 1500 young people per year,” Youthcare’s Director of Community Engagement Randi Eseltine says.
Chances are, you’ve seen one of their programs in action – the “Safe Place” signs in front of certain buildings. Safe Place is a national program that began in 1983 at the Great Louisville YMCA. Since then, it’s spread through forty states – including Washington.
Credit: YouthcareSafe Place is a nationwide program started by the YMCA, and since has spread to forty different states.
“So in King County, we have about 1000 youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness every night,” Eseltine says. “And so Youthcare’s full mission is to provide a comprehensive range of services to make sure they get their needs met.”
They also make sure youth and young adults have community connections to help them stabilize and thrive. In a national study, ninety percent of homeless youth report family conflict – so that support is more important than ever.
“Most of the time, we’re talking about young people who has no support system, or have a support system who’re experiencing those barriers,” Eseltine says. “We really want youth to see themselves as having the potential to get a job, go to school.”
Mental health support plays a major part in Youthcare’s work as well. Their sponsor, Premera, helps them provide mental healthcare to the youth and young adults they help.
“We concentrate on healing and processing the trauma that’s been outside of our walls,” Youthcare’s Strategic Program Partnership Integration Kathryn Peterson says.
And through their work, Youthcare hopes to one day end youth homelessness.
“No one wants to grow up and be homeless,” Eseltine says. “This is probably one of the hardest things a young person can experience, and so we’re here as a community to embrace young people who have no other support system. Not just Youthcare, but the entire community.