This November marks the National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. In King County in 2019, there were 11,199 homeless individuals. Worse, 47% of them were sleeping unsheltered, meaning they were sleeping on the street, in a car or RV, in a tent or in an abandoned building.
Homelessness cuts all ages. In 2019, in the Bellevue School District alone, 295 students were homeless. This number rose to 338 students in 2020. COVID-19 has not helped these numbers to decrease. Homelessness continues to be a pressing problem in King County.
You may be wondering how you can help or where to get help. Here are some resources that you can use to help homeless youth in King County or for yourself.
Friends of Youth is a charity that helps youth and young families. They offer open 24/7 shelters for those both above and below age 18 at 16101 NE 87th St., Suite 110 in Redmond; safe place sites for those 12-17 where a coordinator can meet and help; and many other therapy and housing resources. You can support the charity by donating money, items or your time by tutoring, teaching skills or participating in other activities.
YouthCare offers shelter and resources for adolescents. They have three centers, which each offer shelter and other needs like clothes, showers, meals, etc.: Orion Center (12 to 24 years old), University District Youth Center (12 to 24 years old) and South Seattle Youth Center (18 to 24 years old). At each center, they will also help you find a job and education. For those under 18, they have safe place sites and family support. To help, you can donate money and needed items from the list, provide a meal, or volunteer. As for the needed items, you can organize a drive to collect and provide such things.
New Horizons helps those 13-25 and offers shelter at 2709 3rd Ave., Seattle to those 18 and up. They have day programs that have food, showers, laundry, resting areas, computers and other activities. They offer programs such as four-month paid apprenticeships and case management where they will assist in overcoming barriers to exiting homelessness. To help youth, you can donate highly needed items, shelter supplies, snack bags, kitchen supplies and other needs. As always, donating money is another option. You can also help by volunteering to serve a meal, help clean and do other jobs.
Roots offers shelter, medical help and other services to those 18 to 25 years old. They have a shelter in Seattle’s University District where they have toiletries, showers, meals, clothing and other resources for guests. At the shelter, every Wednesday from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. is the UW Youth Clinic providing basic medical care. There are many opportunities to volunteer, ranging across all different hours of the day, each with different activities. Additionally, all volunteers must complete training prior to starting. You can also donate gently used and new items or shop from their wishlist.
There are many food banks throughout King County. In Bellevue specifically, there is Hopelink and Renewal Food Bank. Hopelink has many locations apart from in Bellevue, and has many ways for you to help (for example, donate food and services or volunteer). Renewal Food Bank, located at 15022 Bel-Red Road, Bellevue, offers many ways to support, such as donating food, volunteering and helping to pick up food.
Through Bellevue College’s Benefits Hub, there are some resources that homeless BC students can use. They can provide rent assistance if you are enrolled in at least six credits and are behind on rent, have located a new place to live or have financial needs. You can also fill out a form to have free food delivered through United Way if you have not been able to access a food bank or able to afford groceries. For educational purposes, they have emergency aid. The Student Emergency Assistance Grant Program provides up to $1,500. The Edquity App, which is partnered with other colleges as well, can cover $500 or less and Benefit Hub coaches can help fill out the application. They also provide financial coaching, free tax help, discounted public transit and access to many other benefits.
Sometimes it can feel daunting or overwhelming to know how to help or where to even begin. This is just a short list of ways to support or find help for yourself. For years, Seattle and King County have had the third-largest homeless population in the nation. While this number may not be decreasing soon, helping out is a way to be part of the solution.