by: Bill Hummel
President & CEO
Aside from ill-health, it’s difficult for me to imagine anything worse than homelessness. If you’re homeless and healthy, chances are good that you won’t be for long. Living on the streets as a child only adds an element of tragedy to this senselessness.
Too often, a child’s inability to conform to the norms and conventions of their upbringing causes them to flee or be forced out of an unbearable situation. Other causes only move from awful (addiction, a single parent dies) to the unthinkable (sexual exploitation). Having healthy and secure children of your own brings into sharper relief the heartbreaking disparity that surrounds us daily.
It’s for these reasons that I was excited to be given the opportunity to serve lunch at Orion Center, a YouthCare facility that offers meals and drop-in services to kids trying to find a path back to normalcy. A healthy contingent of us All Stars were there to serve lunch: Trevar McNamee, Laura Aguilera-Flemming, Erin McTwigan, Michelle Ferris, Tom Kinsella, Arturo Hidalgo, and Doug Brown. All Star bought the food, cooked, and served it.
We served 40-50 kids, some with babies of their own in tow. Most came back for seconds. A few came back for thirds. Given that most didn’t know where their next meal would be coming from, portable food items (a bag of chips) were in high demand.
Somehow Tom ended up doing the lion’s share of the dishes, probably twice, given that tableware was in short supply. Toward the end, I offered to relieve him; he didn’t refuse. Michelle attempted to impose predictability and organization to an event that resisted those efforts at every turn. Doug left the grill cleaner than it’s probably been in years. The rest of us served food or did whatever needed to be done at that moment.
Continuing a tradition of volunteerism at All Star is important to me personally and organizationally: these events are an outlet for our individual compassion that help to bind our corporate values. Sometimes it is these least things that we can do for those who need it most that helps to bring out our collective best.
A Little about YouthCare
YouthCare started in 1974 as a group of concerned citizens, now they have 11 sites that serve the greater Seattle area, which has 700 to 1,000 young people homeless each night. They serve youth ages 13-24.
They provide basic needs for their clientele:
- 3 meals a day 5 days a week
- Laundry facilities and clothing bank
- Showers and personal hygiene items
- A clothing bank
- Counseling services
- Medical clinic days at the center
They have an education program:
- In partnership with Seattle Public Schools a high school diploma program
- GED tutoring
- In partnership with Seattle Education Access they help teens with applications, interviews, applications for scholarships and financial aid
They have an employment training program:
- Barista Training and Education Program in partnership with Fare Start
- Interagency Bike Works in partnership with Bike Works
- Interagency Garden Works in partnership with Seattle Public Schools
- The Tile Project: a pre-employment program
- YouthBuild in partnership with Habitat for Humanity
The Bridge Continuum:
- Services for sexually exploited youth, which offers case management, emergency shelter, long-term housing, education, employment training, and access to mental health and chemical dependency counseling
- Early intervention strategy using various local programs to help prevent homelessness
- Youth and Family Connection Network (YFCN): a program providing a case worker to use their current network to create stability in their lives
- High Risk Youth: a program that focuses on kids in school and juvenile detention
- Young Adult Diversion: a program that helps young adults 18-24 with short-term flexible financial assistance