Nonprofit of the Month: YouthCare

When it was founded in 1974, YouthCare was one of the first shelters for runaway and homeless youth on the West Coast. Today, it has 16 program locations in Seattle and King County, serving 1,500 young people each year. Chief Advancement Officer Suzanne Sullivan discusses how the pandemic impacted the needs of YouthCare, how readers can help and the nonprofit’s goals for the remainder of 2022.

What is the mission of YouthCare? YouthCare works to end youth homelessness and to ensure that young people are valued for who they are and empowered to achieve their potential.

What prompted the start of the nonprofit? YouthCare was founded when a group of caring community members recognized there were young people on the streets and wanted to make a difference. YouthCare began in 1974 as one of the first shelters for runaway and homeless youth on the West Coast. Today, YouthCare has 16 program locations throughout Seattle and King County serving 1,500 young people ages 12 to 24 each year. Over almost 50 years of service, YouthCare is powered by the belief that all young people deserve to have their needs met and to thriving.

What is the greatest reward in being involved with the nonprofit? The young people we serve are our greatest inspiration! The experience of youth homelessness is rooted in trauma. We work to build authentic connections and trust with young people to help undue the impacts of their experience and to help them move forward. Each young person who comes to YouthCare for support have so much to offer our community. There is nothing more inspiring than to help a young person to take positive steps forward, celebrate their strengths and talents, and begin to transform their lives. It is a true honor to provide the guidance, acceptance, care and consistency young people can rely on to meet their futures.

What is the biggest challenge the nonprofit faces? Has the pandemic affected the needs of YouthCare? As our community’s social safety net shuttered at the height of the pandemic, YouthCare keep its doors open, ensuring young people had a safety and support they needed. We moved program locations to accommodate social-distancing, transitioned programs to online environments and re-organized staff teams to provide 24-7 coverage. Our staff were heroic and balanced the weight of the pandemic and the needs of young people on their shoulders. As a result, YouthCare staff are experiencing high rates of fatigue and burn-out. In response, we are working to address the health, well-being, and healing of our direct service staff and teams. 

To date, YouthCare has seen a 30 percent increase in youth accessing services than in previous years. We attribute this increase to be a lasting impact of the pandemic. This year, the top three support requests from young people include meals and a safe space, housing connections and employment opportunities. In response, YouthCare is doubling down on our engagement centers, education and employment programming, offering a bold vision to help young people earn livable wages and economic independence.

What are your goals for the quickly approaching new year? Overall, YouthCare is committed to providing for every young person who is relying on us for guidance and support. YouthCare service delivery is rooted in excellence, empathy and equity. As we build back from the pandemic, more than ever before, we are striving for excellence in delivering the highest quality services possible for young people. We are leveraging lessons learned to strengthen our program approaches and deliver pathways to economic independence for young people. We are leading with empathy by taking care of our staff team to ensure they can be present for our young people. We are fortifying our training, professional development and compensation programs with a focus on staff health and well-being. YouthCare continues to deepen its commitment to social justice and focusing an equity lens on all our work to address the needs of non-white (72 percent) and LGBTQ+ (34 percent) youth experiencing homelessness. This staggering disproportionality tell us that not all our young people have equal access to opportunity. YouthCare is committed to helping ALL young people have the resources, support, and care they need to thrive.

How can readers help? We cannot meet the needs of young people without the help of our generous community members! During the holiday season, the wishes of young people experiencing homelessness are no different than ours: a chance to gather with friends and loved ones, share a meal and enjoy the season. We invite you to help make the holidays feel special for youth by helping to serve a holiday meal, decorating for the festive season, holding a basic needs drive to gather warm clothing and housewares, or fulfilling holiday youth wishes from a list of special youth gift requests. Additionally, your 100 percent tax-deductible financial gift helps YouthCare ensure can provide the strongest support possible for all the young people who need us.

Does the nonprofit have any events or fundraisers on the horizon? YouthCare’s Annual Luncheon will be held at on Thursday, March 23, 2022, noon to 1 p.m. at Westin Seattle. We hope you can join us for an afternoon of inspiration and transformation!

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