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Seattle youth homeless shelter set to close as funding dries up

SEATTLE — On an average day, young homeless people can be found cleaning the area outside the YouthCare shelter at the Orion Center, doing their part to give back to a place that has given them so much.

Teenager Michael Mansfield is working on his education.

“I’ve been taking the GED math camp. With the math camp, I’ve been able to pass the math part of the GED,” Mansfield said.

YouthCareLaden Blea-Kugler is getting help putting his life back together.

“The center means a lot to me. They helped me get a job. They helped me get food stamps. They helped me get a source of income because it’s hard out here,” Blea-Kugler said.

And like so many others, YouthCare offered, Nemo, as his friends call him, a place to stay when he had no place to go.

“A place to get out from the street, a place that when it gets cold we don’t have to sleep underneath a bridge. This place is like all my family. We all stick together,” Nemo said.

But YouthCare’s shelter is in jeopardy.

Funding has all but dried up, and the process of shutting YouthCare down is under way.

Its loss will leave a void that will be hard to fill.

YouthCare currently provides 26% of all safe beds available specifically for kids and young adults in Seattle and King County.

“We have about 100 percent occupancy every single night.  We are turning homeless youth away,” YouthCare Director of Program Services Hedda McLendon said Thursday.

In December, she said, a $250,000 grant from the Seattle-based Raynier Institute & Foundation will sunset and so far efforts to replace the grant have been unsuccessful.

“If youth don’t have a place to stay at night, what ends up happening is they become sexually exploited. They end up selling themselves for basic survival needs, and what our shelter provides them is a safe place,” McLendon said.

With that in mind, in walks Seattle City Council President Sally Clark.

She is leading an effort to restore funding for YouthCare with cash from the city’s budget.

She believes keeping YouthCare open is good for the young people but also for all of downtown.

“If we want people to be safe, if we want to see conditions at places like Westlake Park to change, we’ve got to provide alternatives.  I’m hopeful that we will recognize that and have enough money to move around in the city’s budget that we can plug the hole, keep these beds whole for at least 2014 and then figure out a longer-range plan,” Clark said.

Clark’s plan is to secure $130,000 from the city’s budget and she’s talking with the King County Council about kicking in $120,000, and the hope is the public will contribute, too, because, as Clark said, saving this youth shelter is good for the entire community.

4 comments

  • LocalNative

    This is just flat out wrong. Even the Stranger got it more right. Straight up, YouthCare is ABSOLUTELY not about to be shut down. That's just an embarassingly wrong thing to post. This article insinuates the end of the Orion Center…I was there this morning talking to the person who runs the building, this is not a building that is likely to be shut down any time soon, much less likely is the shutting down of YouthCare. YouthCare is low on funding in a few areas, which is understandable, given that our government is doing a shitty job at keeping the economy itself afloat right now. It is shutting down one of it's other young adult shelters, but can we at least keep the reporting on the issue honest? When a statement like "As of right now funding has all but dried up and the process of shutting YouthCare down is underway." is made, it creates a false image. YouthCare is not that weak. It needs help and not pity. Donate to YouthCare, but don't donate your time listening to the lies that this article produces.

    And please, don't consider me to be one of those "Media distrusting crazies" and brush my opinion off. I believe in the media, but I believe in the truth as well, and this is not honest reporting.

  • YouthCare

    Thank you Q13 for raising awareness about the funding challenges at YouthCare. Just to clarify, YouthCare, and our James W. Ray Orion Center, is in no danger of closing. We have, however, sustained significant cuts to several critical programs, and have had to make the difficult decision to close down our Young Adult Shelter until a sustainable funding source can be found, and until we have filled in cuts to our outreach and drop-in programs. We appreciate the interest and support of the community! To learn more please visit our website at http://www.youthcare.org. Thank you!

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