Times are tough. You’ve read about federal budgets cuts and it saddens me to say that YouthCare has also been impacted by declining federal dollars for services and will face major funding cuts to our basic needs, shelter, and employment training programs for Seattle’s homeless youth.

For the first time since 1983, YouthCare’s outreach and drop-in program did not receive a renewal of its federal outreach grant. In addition, private funds for YouthCare’s Young Adult Shelter are expiring at the end of this year. YouthCare’s federal grant for Civic Justice Corps has expired, and a federal grant for YouthBuild was not renewed, despite excellent outcomes.

We’re not giving up: we are exploring all funding avenues, and I’m pleased to report that we have successfully secured significant funds to continue operating YouthBuild and Civic Justice Corps into 2014. We are still seeking funding for our engagement programs: outreach and drop-in services, and Young Adult Shelter, and have had to make the extremely difficult choice to begin ramping down services at the Young Adult Shelter until a sustainable funding source can be identified.

The tentative closure date for the Young Adult Shelter, which provides emergency shelter to twenty 18-24 year olds each night, is February 1, 2014. This timeline allows our staff the opportunity to work closely with the youth currently accessing our Young Adult Shelter to help find safe and stable housing. We have some help. In 2013, partner agencies added shelter beds, increasing capacity in King County by more than 20 beds. Nonetheless, we still see great demand for shelter county-wide, and hope to reopen the Young Adult Shelter should sustainable funding become available.

Given the critical role that outreach and drop-in services serve in our community, we must prioritize maintaining our outreach and drop-in services at full capacity before funding the Young Adult Shelter. It is our hope to be able to provide both vital services, and we are exploring every avenue that might allow for that outcome.

At our core, we believe outreach is critical to our work and to the successful transition of young people off the streets. Outreach workers help youth meet their basic needs, reunify with their families, enroll in case management, sign up for housing, apply for job training programs, and reconnect with education. We have long been a leader in providing these critical services to homeless youth in this community. We help over 400 young people each month during drop-in hours at the Orion Center, and make over 8,000 contacts a year with youth on the streets.  That work is ongoing. It defines us and it is critical to our mission.

If we are unable to find additional funding, the loss of our federal grant will lead to a reduction in drop-in hours, meals, and outreach walks, resulting in fewer young people getting connected to services that will help them get off the streets and prepare for life.

The rest of YouthCare’s extensive continuum of services for homeless youth and young adults remains robust and continues to serve our community’s most vulnerable. These services include emergency shelter for minors, case management, mental health and chemical dependency counseling, transitional housing programs, education (including GED tutoring and high school diploma completion), and employment training. We also offer specialized programs for youth who have experienced sexual exploitation, including dedicated beds in emergency shelter and transitional living, access to survivor-led support groups, and case management tailored to the needs of this vulnerable population. The Orion Center remains open and continues to house many of these important programs.

You can help support these critical, lifesaving programs by making a donation, hosting a drive for needed supplies, or volunteering. If you have any questions about these cuts and the impact on service provision, please contact us at info@youthcare.org.

Thank you for your ongoing support of our mission.

With deep appreciation,