Anthony’s Journey to Sobriety

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It was nearly a year ago that Anthony sat across from me in Street Bean’s Belltown coffee shop. That day, he was just shy of the 60-day mark into his seventh journey toward sobriety in just 23 years, but he was optimistic about the future.

He’d been on the streets since his mid-teens, raised by two parents who struggled with the demons of addiction that then made a home in their son. His father taught Anthony to smoke marijuana at age eight. By 18, Anthony was homeless, addicted to heroin, and had a criminal record, not because he was a bad kid – but because he simply didn’t know a different life to live.

“I never thought I’d be anything other than an addict. That’s what I saw my family doing, so that’s what I thought I would do.”

But that was a year ago.

Today, Anthony is a familiar face around New Horizons, though his role here has shifted significantly since he’s been around.

When he first came to New Horizons, he attended Drop-In and worked with a case manager for a while, until he was hired as a facilities apprentice and later as a Street Bean apprentice.

Apprentices are guaranteed a space in The Nest, our 12-bed transitional shelter, so once he was hired at Street Bean, Anthony would be stably housed and employed for the first time in a long time for at least six months.

During those six months, he excelled in every way.

He was such a standout that, after his apprenticeship was finished, Street Bean hired him as a full-time employee. He received transitional housing with the help of his case manager while faithfully attending weekly drug court appointments and daily Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

And thankfully, none of his dedication has returned empty.

Today, quite some time after he told me that there was a time in his life he didn’t think he’d ever go 24 hours without using, Anthony is a week away from his one-year anniversary of sobriety.

After a shift of work recently, he reflected on the milestone at my desk.

“I made it to 24. That’s amazing. I should’ve died – not because I want to, you know, but because what I was doing was so dangerous – way before 24. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but reflecting on where I used to be compared to where I am now keeps me going. I never want to go back to where I used to be.”

Not only is he nearly one-year sober, but Anthony is stably housed, a handful of court appointments away from a having his criminal record wiped clean, and is just past another one-year anniversary: his employment with Street Bean.

“I’ve never had a job for that long,” he said with a small grin and chuckle, slinging his backpack over his shoulder, the grin lingering as he gave a signature nod and headed out the door.


We’re grateful to have played a supportive role in Anthony’s journey off the streets – not just that we have been able to offer housing, case management, and job training along the way, but also that we’ve had the joy of befriending this young man who has overcome so many seemingly impossible obstacles to get to the place he is now.

We’re fortunate that, at least for today, that place continues to be with us at Street Bean and New Horizons.

New HorizonsAnthony’s Journey to Sobriety
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We want to get 450 youth off the streets in 100 days.

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New Horizons is honored to be part of a statewide coalition of youth service providers, led by A Way Home Washington, that have accepted a challenge to house 450 youth in King County in 100 days.

These accelerated efforts will specifically aim to house our most vulnerable: the approximately 282 young people who are not currently accessing shelter in King County and spend most of their time on the streets.

To say the least, this is a lofty goal.

But in a county that grows increasingly crowded by the day, there is a decreasing amount of low-income housing available to our most vulnerable children and youth, and we believe we have the power to do more for these young people whose lives are put on hold by the instability caused by even a brief experience with homelessness.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Because low-income housing options are limited, this effort will only be successful through the generosity of our friends and partners.

One primary way we hope to accomplish our goal of housing 450 at-risk and homeless young adults is through Accelerator YMCA’s Host Homes program.

Host Homes are those families, couples, or individuals who have a spare room in their house and are willing to host a young person for six months while they work toward their own sustainable housing. Youth housed by the program work closely with a case manager while living in a Host Home, and hosts are provided a stipend to support extra costs in addition to staff support from New Horizons and YMCA to answer questions or address concerns.

The YMCA’s extensive screening process selects youth candidates referred by case managers from places like New Horizons to be matched with potential hosts. If you’re interested in helping us house 450 youth in 100 days by becoming a Host Home, use the form below to speak with someone and learn more about the Host Homes program.

We believe we can accomplish this goal with your help. To learn more about the 100-Day Challenge, visit A Way Home Washington’s page and join the conversation on social media at #WAChallengeAccepted.


Host Homes Interest Form

How did you hear about Host Homes?
YMCA's websiteYMCA's social mediaNew Horizons' websiteNew Horizons' social mediaFlyersFriend/Word-of-mouthInternet Search

New HorizonsWe want to get 450 youth off the streets in 100 days.
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Celebrating One Year of YAES: the Young Adult Emergency Shelter

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Not long ago, television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes wrote a New York Times bestseller called Year of Yes, in which she reflects on the many ways saying yes positively impacted her life.

It’s difficult to believe, but one year ago New Horizons said yes to opening the Young Adult Emergency Shelter, which we’ve conveniently abbreviated to sound like a most enthusiastic agreement – YAES.

It’s a little different than Shonda’s, but this has been our Year of YAES, and saying yes to the YAES has undoubtedly made a positive impact on youth at New Horizons during the last year.

Because of your support and a partnership with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, we opened the shelter this time last year in our Drop-In Center, offering a safe, warm place to sleep five nights per week.

Though we began with 18 beds, the shelter was immediately popular, reaching capacity nearly every night once word got out among youth on the streets. After just two months we added two more beds and finally reached our current capacity of 22 beds late last year.

To celebrate our first year of emergency shelter, we collected a few highlights for you:

1. The YAES has provided a path off the streets for at least 23 young people.

Perhaps the most incredible thing your support has made possible through the YAES is that it’s provided a real path off the streets for real people. Youth who were on the streets at this time last year had few with few options for employment, housing, or school.

Thankfully, they found a place to stay and a brief respite from the streets at New Horizons. Eventually, they found much more.

For 23 youth, the YAES was the first step on their path out of homelessness.

Through the YAES, twenty-three youth learned about the Nest, our 12-bed transitional housing program. Each of them moved into the Nest, and 14 have already found permanent housing, now living completely on their own.

Several local news stations featured the opening of the YAES last February, including KUOW, Kiro TV, KOMO, and King5. Photo: KUOW

2. The YAES provided safety from the streets 4,146 times.

That’s 4,146 times a young person laid her head to sleep on a pillow instead of concrete. 4,146 times youth had a place to fall asleep knowing that they and their belongings were safe. 4,146 times youth could rest well and without fear before a full day of work or school.

To us, that alone is priceless.

But YAES has offered more than just sleep.

It’s been a place for 208 individual young people to have a snack, to share what’s on their mind with a trustworthy staff person, or to experience the privilege and relaxation of doing nothing but watch a movie or TV show for an hour or two, free from worry or stress.

Giving to New Horizons makes it possible for youth to leave the streets for a new future.

Shy has used the shelter as she’s worked two jobs to save money to afford her own place.

3. YAES met an existing need for youth-specific overnight shelter beds in Seattle.

Currently, more than 850 youth are without a stable home each night in King County, and as many as 250-300 of those are on the streets with nowhere else to go.

With fewer than 100 shelter beds available to youth prior to 2016, the YAES created more opportunities for those young people to have a safe place to sleep at night.


None of us this would be possible without your continued partnership through financial gifts, volunteer hours, and prayers, so give yourself a pat on the back for a great first year of YAES at New Horizons.

We look forward to many more years of saying yes to services and programs that positively impact the lives of youth seeking to exit homelessness in Seattle. Thanks for making shelter possible for so many young people this year.

Want to partner with us to continue making a difference to homeless youth in Seattle?

1. Make a gift. A gift of $50 helps us keep the lights on (and off for a large portion of the night) during shelter for one night, in addition to helping with youth’s laundry & showers, regular upkeep of beds, and dinner and breakfast. 

2. Help us fluff our pillows. We’re no five-star hotel, but we do like to keep our pillows nice for our guests – and after a year of use, ours could use a little help. If you’d like to donate a new pillow or two for youth in the YAES, click here to purchase them from our Amazon Wishlist. They’ll ship directly to our office!

3. Join the Home Team. If you’d like to offer ongoing support, we’d love to have you on our Home Team. Click here to learn more.

New HorizonsCelebrating One Year of YAES: the Young Adult Emergency Shelter
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10 Days of Praise Breaks: Our 2016 in Review

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Christmas is the perfect time of year to grab a hot chocolate, bundle up by a warm fire, and reflect on everything that’s happened in the past twelve months.

While it’s usually a more personal endeavor, we decided to do a little reflecting with our staff in order to highlight and give thanks for some of the big and small successes we’ve seen at New Horizons this year – and so this list was born, full of anecdotes, small wins, and highlights from our Direct Service and Housing staff.

We’d like to share it with you day-by-day until the end of the year, because without your partnership through donations, volunteering, and prayers, none of it would’ve been possible. Thanks for another great year at New Horizons.

In 2016, youth at New Horizons…

1. Didn’t have to endure difficult situations alone.

“A young man had to get surgery on his shoulder. I was able to accompany him to the hospital, drive him home, and buy him some groceries so he had food to eat with his meds. It was an honor to help him in these tangible ways we all would need after a surgery.”

Time after time we’ve seen that positive relationships are essential to exiting the streets. Our case managers work long, odd hours to care for and journey alongside young people through every kind of situation, like making sure youth get to court appointments, taking them to get necessary government documents, helping with job and housing applications, or going out to lunch to catch up and offer a listening ear.

Relational disconnection is a cruel consequences of homelessness, so whenever possible, we hope to offer the powerful gift of presence. We’re grateful that we were able to do that this year.

2. Reclaimed their God-given worth and value.

“Sitting in the doctor’s office, a female client disclosed her past sexual abuse and how hard it is for her to see her body as having worth. She said that being at New Horizons has helped change her view of her body. She no longer feels dread as she gets dressed. In her words, ‘I used to try to dress in a way that attracted sexual attention, even though I knew that deep down, that wasn’t what I wanted. It didn’t make me happy.’ Now, she feels joy as she gets dressed. ‘It’s a way for me to express my creativity and personality!’ This young woman is now enrolled in trauma therapy, and caring for her body well—all while being enrolled full-time in school and holding a part-time job.”

This kind of story makes every hour of work worth it. It’s an honor and joy seeing young men and women come to see themselves as beautiful, valuable, and lovable.

3. Took miraculous steps toward sobriety.

“George has made a complete 180! When we met him he seemed unreachably deep in the co-occurring grip of drug addiction and severe bipolar disorder. His infectiously endearing and hilarious personality still shone through so that we all fell in love with him, but were that much more saddened by his debilitating and seemingly hopeless situation. But Lo! In the last month George has made a miraculous transition into sobriety and mental health! He has connected with mental health services and is receiving the proper medication to aid him in living his life well and being his full self, and he has successfully moved into Phoenix Rising(!) where he has his very own brand new furnished studio directly across the street from a clinic that specializes in serving youth with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. George is housed, in his right mind, applying to jobs and college, and more delightful, hilarious and bright as ever.”

Very few people on the streets use substances purely for recreation. When you’re living on the streets, it might be too dangerous to sleep – so perhaps you take something to help you stay awake to fend off any potential threats to your safety. Or, on the other hand, maybe you’ve been too anxious to sleep – you simply take a drug to help you rest.

While youth may not desire to use substances, it’s an unfortunate reality of homelessness for some people. When addiction rears its head, it can be devastating, especially when a young person is dealing with mental illness. We have the privilege of loving and journeying alongside youth every day working hard to overcome their dependence on substances and to help them get connected to resources for success. George’s story gives us hope for this difficult battle.

4. Found new life through job training and case management.

“Britney has impressed us all with her incredibly hard work as a Street Bean apprentice – breaking multiple records, including top pastry sales and fastest milk steaming mastery achievement – while simultaneously kicking trauma and addiction’s butt, making great strides in personal therapy and maintaining a joyful sobriety. And she secured full time work as a server and bar tender at a hotel in Queen Anne, and has successfully moved into her very own apartment!! Way to go Britney! If anyone qualifies to be a New Horizons “poster child,” it is her. New Horizons has been the solid foundation for an amazing transition from the streets and all its entanglements to a sustainable, fulfilling, and free life.”

We are so grateful for Britney, her story, and the joy she brought to our office and to Street Bean this year!

5. Benefitted from increased mental health access.

“One young woman has successfully enrolled in counseling with our partner Ryther therapist, Kian. They meet weekly and the young person is very engaged in the process of becoming more mentally healthy.”

This year, we were incredibly grateful to add regular mental health counseling to our services for young people through a partnership with Ryther, a mental health resource center for children and families. Kian, our counselor picture below, sees multiple clients each week and has been a tremendous resource for youth at New Horizons. Like the young woman mentioned above, many youth have seen improvement with anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges since our partnership with Ryther.

6. Took small steps toward big success.

“A young man who has been couch surfing for months heard about us through his college program, Year Up. We completed an intake and he talked about wanting to change his life. “I don’t want to be this angry; I don’t want to drink as much as I do. I want to finish my program and get a job in the IT field. I know I need help to get there, though.” I have a lot of hope for this young man, and I was able to connect him to resources right away.”

Sometimes it takes a few years to learn what you want and don’t want, no matter who you are or where you live. We see the same thing with youth – sometimes the independence of life on the streets seems better than being tied down by external obligations, but often as youth age they begin to see that homelessness is not the future they desire for themselves. A willing heart goes a long way toward success, and we’re happy to be there when youth decide to pursue other options than life on the streets.

7. Developed trust with staff.

“A young person told me I’ve earned their trust after disclosing that she’s never really had an adult that she’s trusted before. She told me, ‘I trust you have my best interest in mind.’ It’s difficult to measure success sometimes with relational work like ours, but I consider building healthy, trusting relationships like this one of the biggest factors in a young person’s future success.”

We can’t overstate how much of an honor it is to walk alongside young people as safe, trusted adults. With a large percent of youth homelessness resulting from broken relationships with adults, any trust capital we earn is a success. We work diligently to be people of integrity and character, so stories like these are encouraging and inspiring.

8. Found relationships that feel like family.

“I love the story of the young woman who found refuge here on Thanksgiving at the Nest. Sitting around the dinner table with staff and other residents, she shared that while ‘we may not be actual family here, it feels like family in the Nest.'”

Our ultimate goal is always family reunification. A best case scenario of our work is that young people are reconciled with their families and able to go home to a safe, loving environment. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible. So with the Nest now open for over a year, we celebrate that, for those who aren’t able to go to a safe home, our space has grown to feel like one, filled with people who feel like family.

We’re grateful we’ve started family meals, where each month we gather around the table to share a meal and hear someone’s story, then respond by asking each other a question to reflect on together. We’re thankful that we’ve had staff who love our youth so much that they’ve requested to be here with them on special holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, and even more thankful that their eagerness to be here meant we could open our space to those young people who had nowhere else to go.

All of this is possible thanks to you, our extended family of supporters, donors, and volunteers.

9. Didn’t have to sleep outside as much as they did in 2015.

Thanks to our partnership with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission and support from people like you, we’ve now been able to offer 20 beds to young people on the streets five nights a week since February.
 
The Young Adult Emergency Shelter has provided warmth on cold nights, sleep for tired bodies, and safety from dangerous streets, and we’re excited to continue to offer shelter in the YAES and the Nest for a long time to come with your support!

10. Found old and new places to call home away from New Horizons.

“An 18-year-old young woman was able to move out of The Nest and into an apartment by her college in Auburn.  Her new housing setup reminds me of some of mine in college.  I truly believe this young woman will not end up homeless again. And there are so many other success stories of people moving from the streets to new life – we spoke with the parents of a 16-year-old, and ended up sending the daughter home. We helped two young people move into their own independent apartment. We helped several young people move into transitional housing. It’s been a great year.”

Like we mentioned before in this post, one of our ultimate best-case scenarios is when a young person can be safely reunited with their family. Another is when our services allow a young person to become fully self-sustaining and healthily functioning without us. While we adore the youth we work with, we ultimately hope they’ll stop coming to New Horizons because they’ve taken steps to eliminate their need to use our services.

We love acting as a temporary home, but we don’t hope to be someone’s only home. We hope they’ll find fullness of life on their own.

This year, we’ve seen youth find permanent or transitional housing, reconcile with their families, or both. We’ve been privileged to play a part in that work through relationships and resources, and your support has made it all possible.


Considering how God has worked in 2016 at New Horizons, we can’t wait to see what’s in store for 2017. Thank you for your support and your care for youth on Seattle’s streets. Happy New Year!

New Horizons10 Days of Praise Breaks: Our 2016 in Review
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How the Seahawks’ win over the Dolphins reminded me of our work with youth experiencing homelessness

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I wasn’t able to watch the Seahawks’ home opener, so when I saw that the score was much closer than anticipated, I was eager to read a solid game summary that would explain to me exactly why.

That’s how I came across this headline this morning from The Seattle Times:

seahawks-pete-carroll-tap-into-belief-to-pull-out-a-harrowing-victory-over-dolphins-the-seattle-times

I’m assuming most of you watched the game and know what happened, but for those who do not: the article recapped a game full of miscues, unmet offensive expectations, and setbacks for the Hawks that lasted until the final drive of the game, where the offense drove 75 yards down the field to score a touchdown in the final seconds to pull off a fairly miraculous win.

While this was great news – we all love a Seahawks W – what struck me as most remarkable was what coach Pete Carroll contributed to the team’s success. Sports writer Bob Condotta put it this way:

The Seahawks again demonstrated Sunday what coach Pete Carroll believes is one of their greatest strengths — belief. “There’s a belief that we can do it, and if we only have (4:08) left and 75 yards, it doesn’t matter,” Carroll said. “That’s a really powerful thing for a team.”

One might think the coach of a professional football team would credit such a victory to the the hours of practice, the extraordinary natural talent of his players, or some other seemingly obvious, football-related characteristic, yet according to him, it was belief that gave the Hawks the edge to win.

I couldn’t help but think of how the same is true for young people that come to New Horizons.

Much of our work with youth experiencing homelessness is about connecting people to the opportunity to succeed, which looks different for everyone. For some, that means a stable enough place to sleep so they can work consistently. For others, it’s having the opportunity to work in a job training program to develop a skill that translates into long-term employment.

In a sense, we’re trying to equip young people with life skills and opportunities to leave the streets the way football practice equips the Seahawks for tough games – yet even tangible things like job interviews, housing, or hot meals can fail to forge a path to success when the odds are stacked against you.

Sometimes, what a young person needs to succeed is someone to help them believe success is possible.

hope_1

Belief is the extra umph someone needs to overcome obstacles that arise when everything else fails. If we equip someone with a sense of belief in their potential, it may carry them through the many setbacks that occur when they try to move forward, like rejection when applying for jobs, setbacks with the legal system, or relational issues at home.

Just like it was a really powerful tool for the Seahawks, belief is a tremendously valuable asset for a young person trying to exit the streets.

That’s why we place so much emphasis on relationships at New Horizons.

By cultivating positive, trusting friendships, youth have a place to vent their frustrations, talk about their failures, and receive encouragement, just like football players in the huddle before a 4th-and-2 situation shout positive things at each other like, Let’s go, man! It’s our time! We got this!

Spending time with young people at Drop-In or in The Nest is our time in the huddle, time to reflect to young people what is already true about them: that they can do anything, that success is possible, and that if they don’t quit fighting, they can win.

And just like the Seahawks final drive on Sunday, it’s inspiring to watch what happens when young people begin to believe.

Thanks for making it possible for us to be in relationship with real winners. Please join us in praying for them to know the power of believing in their God-given potential.

-meredith, marketing coordinator

P.S. Is it a coincidence that our main man, NH supporter Doug Baldwin, caught the game-winning pass? We don’t think so. Go Doug!

New HorizonsHow the Seahawks’ win over the Dolphins reminded me of our work with youth experiencing homelessness
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New Horizons Awarded City of Seattle’s $10,000 Technology Grant

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This week we were honored to receive a $10,000 grant from the City of Seattle that will fund computers for our Drop-In Center and allow us to implement computer literacy training for youth seeking to exit the streets.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray presented the grant to our Development Officer, Mark, in a ceremony on Wednesday that was broadcast on live on the Seattle Channel. The grant is part of a $320,000 Digital Equity Initiative that seeks to provide technology resources and training to underserved populations in Seattle by awarding ten different organizations with funding.

In GeekWire’s report on the Initiative, Mayor Murray explained, “Technology impacts nearly every facet of our lives, from finding jobs to thriving in school. Our investment in these community driven projects will open the door to greater success for Seattleites who lack sufficient technology access and essential digital skills.”

The Seattle Public Library will be supplying teachers for the trainings. We can’t wait to begin offering valuable computer skills training to young people who access services at New Horizons!

You can view all the images from the presentation of the grants here.

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New HorizonsNew Horizons Awarded City of Seattle’s $10,000 Technology Grant
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The benefits of the Nest, according to one resident

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The cube where he sleeps is called “Prosperity,” and I ask if he likes his bunk’s name. He puckers his lips in thought, then through a signature grin that tilts his chin slightly upward and narrows his twinkling eyes, tells me he approves.

“Yeah. Yeah, I like it. It’s a good word.”


Jovonni is difficult not to like. His head nods gently, rhythmically, in conversation, evidence that he’s carefully taking in everything you’re saying, while the corners of his mouth are usually pulled gently upward in a relaxed grin that puts you immediately at ease. His eyes are soft and kind, and they shine with an unhindered enthusiasm many people seem to lose as life takes unexpected twists and turns. It’s likely you’ll leave a conversation with him smiling, whether you set out to smile or not.

He is resident of the Nest, our transitional housing program, where bunks are given names like Prosperity or Greatness or Hope, rather than sanitized, impersonal numbers or letters.

Jovonni has lived there for a few months now as he works to save money and searches for his own place. He’s just graduated from the Street Bean apprenticeship program, where he worked for six months and learned to “throw ‘spro,” as the staff sometimes quips. During that time, he also started working for a local retailer.

I’d asked if he’d tell me about his experience in the Nest, mentioning that it’s the shelter’s one-year anniversary, and though momentarily hesitant, he quickly said (mostly to himself), “Well, yeah. Yeah, if it’s for the Nest. Yeah, come on.”

He lead me to his bunk and we chatted about what he likes about his living situation.

The short-term stability it’s provided has helped him think about and work toward his longer term plans, a benefit of transitional housing we’ve seen time and time again:  it’s quite difficult to manage your future needs when your day-to-day ones are a question mark.

Programs like the Nest help stabilize one part of a young person’s life by ensuring consistency – there’s no worrying about where to eat or sleep – and free him or her to look toward other resources like employment, education, or treatment.

Plus, it creates space to be human, to explore passions, interests, and hobbies – a luxury of the stably housed and gainfully employed.

The Nest has given him the freedom to be more creative and finish mastering the music he’s written when he’s not working. It’s rare to see Jovonni without his headphones on working on his latest music recordings and original writings.

“The Nest provides structure, which motivates you to keep working on your goals,” he offers thoughtfully. “I like that I can relax on the couch, work on my music, watch movies from time to time, get a shower whenever I want.”

He thinks a little more, his grin appearing again as he thinks carefully, and says it’s also taught him about sharing a space with others and caring for it responsibly.

“It’s clean, it’s quiet, a place of relaxation, but also a place to laugh and spend time with other people. It prepares you to live with roommates and teaches you to take care of your own space.”

DSC_1044

He graciously lets me take his photo by his cube but insists that he see it. Upon examination, he says, “Wait one second, I gotta get a hat.” He disappears briefly, taming his hair on the way out, only to reappear a moment later smiling underneath a flat-billed, vintage Chicago Bulls hat.

“Okay, now try this,” he says, planting his feet, crossing his arms and smiling, his chin tilting upward and eyes narrowing, still twinkling, again. I snap the photo, and he gives an approving “Yeah, yeah, that one.”

Jovonni politely asks to be excused if we’re done, and he goes back to his computer to finish mastering another track, doing that trotting thing people do when they’re eager to get back to something important; not quite running, but not quite walking, either.

I realize I’ve unknowingly encroached upon his free time by asking for a quick tour, and I smile knowing that he gave freely of it to humor me.

I smile, too, at the simple fact that now, he has free time to give.


Help us celebrate the Nest’s one-year anniversary this week by donating one or two of the items on its birthday wishlist on Amazon! Make it easy on yourself and put 2709 3rd Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121 as the shipping address, and we’ll unpack and sort everything for you!

New HorizonsThe benefits of the Nest, according to one resident
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Hiking Club Trip Report – Summit Lake

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We’ve been taking our young people hiking one day each month as part of our hiking club. This week, we visited Summit Lake in Mount Rainier National Park. Escaping the city has rested the souls of both youth and staff. The opportunity to get away for a day and briefly tune out the stresses of daily life has created space for the kinds of shared experiences that lead to positive relationships.

We arrived at the trailhead and had a brief group meeting to distribute our lunches, get everyone water, and go over some safety tips. Case Manager Brian showed us (pictured below) what to do should we come across any bears.

Once we started up the trail, we twisted and turned up switchbacks as conversations of many types developed, as they tend to do on hikes. Hiking seems to be one of the easiest ways to get to know another person. I suppose barriers break down when you sweat and gasp for air and use the restroom in the wilderness together.

In between sometimes embarrassingly heavy breaths, my group chatted about where we were all from and where we’d like to travel in the US (Colorado was the landslide victor; credit to its outdoorsy, chill vibe).

Though Seattle hasn’t put on its summer face yet, the trail was polka-dotted with wildflowers and left us ooh-ing and aah-ing through sloped meadows.

Spirits remained high as the hike was relatively novice-level, and we arrived at the lake in about an hour. The lake is full of glacial deposits, giving it the characteristically crystal clear blue tint of glacial lakes. We set up a mini camp by the lake and used a Jet Boil to cook some dehydrated camping meals. One young man even thought to bring his hammock, so a few people relaxed to the max, despite the chilliness of the wind coming off the lake.

Brian asks a question before we begin each hike and revisits it once we’ve reached our destination to hear everyone’s answers. This month’s was, “What’s the difference between wilderness and civilization?” Answers ranged from wilderness is beautiful and wild and unmarked by humans to there are no rules out in the wilderness.

Before we left the lake to hike down, Brian brought our attention to thin places, the Celtic notion that there exist places on earth where the spiritual and natural are three feet apart – that is to say, nearer one another than usual – and the group held a minute of complete silence to listen to this thin place speak.

Sharing such a long moment of silence within a group of nearly 15 people was sobering. The wind whispered lowly in the trees as it made its way down to the lake; the clouds played charades over the water, changing to another before you could make out one shape. The silence rested heavily on us, and the moment felt like peace.

It was a great day hike for all of us, full of lively conversations, laughs, and serious moments. Thanks for making days like this possible through your support.

-meredith

  • Brian demonstrates the proper way to react to bears on the trail.

  • Wildflowers surprised us on the way into the lake basin.

    Wildflowers surprised us on the way into the lake basin.

  • Setting up camp and meals by the lake.

    Setting up camp and meals by the lake.

  • The view of the lake as we rounded the top of the trail.

  • The clouds thinned and wisped beautifully across the lake while we ate our lunches.

New HorizonsHiking Club Trip Report – Summit Lake
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Three Differences Between Youth and Adult Homelessness

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Homelessness is traumatic at any age. The streets are unstable, alienating, and insecure for anyone who must navigate a life on them, no matter how young or old.

Still, the streets affect populations differently. In our almost 40 years of work in downtown Seattle, we’ve noticed three major ways that the experiences of  homeless and unstably housed youth (ages 13-24) differ from the experiences of homeless adults: causes of homelessness, lack of social support networks, and the long-term effects of homelessness.

1 | The Root Cause of Youth Homelessness

Multiple factors  contribute to adult homelessness, such as economic instability, job loss, addiction, mental or physical disability. Most youth end up on the streets for one reason: family disruption.

Youth simply would not be on the streets if they were able to be at home safely.

Homeless youth often suffer mental, physical, or sexual abuse at home.  Even if they are not abused, these youth typically face chaotic family situations, often with parents who suffer from addiction or substance abuse.

Some youth choose to leave home to escape the chaos and abuse. Others are placed in foster care. And some are even forced to leave by families that no longer want the responsibility of caring for them.

Foster care is no panacea. More than 30% of youth placed in foster care graduate from the system at age 18 with no money, no job, no safety net, and thus nowhere to go but the streets.

Nationally, more than one in four youth who come out to their parents as LGBT are kicked out of their homes. According to the 2016 Count Us In report, some 27% of homeless youth in Seattle identify as LGBTQ.

The number one cause of youth homelessness is family disruption.

The effects of a failed family system

Many of the youth we meet at New Horizons have suffered some combination of these factors.

One young woman lived in nearly 30 homes after being taken from an abusive home and placed in foster care at age 5. When she aged out of the system at 18, she didn’t have the same training for adulthood a youth who’d grown up in one home with one or two caring parents might have received, yet she had no choice but to face life on her own.

Instead of a collection of valuable experiences gained through education, positive social relationships, group sports, arts programs, or other extracurriculars, as one might expect a “typical” 18-year-old to have, her life was a confusing amalgam of physical instability, psychiatrist visits, medications to manage the trauma of early childhood abuse, anxiety, and alienation.

Unfortunately, her story is not an anomaly. Very few youth are homeless because of their own choosing, victims to family systems that fail them, foster care systems that fail them, and streets that inadvertently become their home.

2 | Homeless Youth Tend to Lack Social Support Networks

None of us succeeds alone. We all need support from families, friends, teachers, and other supportive adults to grow up successfully. Homeless youth typically do not have these supports. They’ve lost not only their families, but also connections to schools, churches, jobs, and other community resources.

Based on our work, we’ve seen that youth require even more social support than an adult exiting homelessness because they are younger and have had less time (and likely, little opportunity) to cultivate emotional assets like self-esteem and perseverance.

Those familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs will know that these skills are a luxury only for those who have first procured more survival-based needs like food, water, and safety, all of which are constantly in question living on the streets.

Addiction and transience increase alienation

Even if they have established support systems, youth may resort to using substances as a survival tool (e.g., to stay awake at night to avoid assault; or conversely, to sleep all day to avoid the stressors of being on the streets) and become addicted. As addiction worsens, it may strain or sever the few relationships a young person has.

Services offered through Drop-In centers can assist youth with basic needs like food, showers, and clothing, while also providing a space for youth to cultivate positive relationships with case managers and volunteers.

Still, with few connections to a home or social network, youth may further the alienation of homelessness by becoming increasingly transient, often traveling to new cities where they have no relational history or context. With no positive relationships to provide love, care, guidance, and emotional safety, youth are much more likely to stay on the streets as they seek other methods of self-soothing.

Drop-In Centers are essential in providing opportunity for youth to form positive relationships.

3 | The Opportunity to Minimize Long-Term Negative Effects of Homelessness

Finally, less time spent on the streets is less time to be permanently negatively affected by them.

If given access to the proper resources to exit the streets, a youth will suffer fewer long-term effects of homelessness than an adult who has been homeless for an extended period of time.

Homeless youth, like young people who leave home for the first time to go to college, are at a stage of their lives where they need the space for self-expression and the structure in which to figure out who they are.

We have observed that, when given structure and support (like that of our transitional housing program, The Nest), youth tend to exit the streets into employment and housing at very high rates.

The Nest gives youth the physical stability they need to focus on other needs, like finding work and permanent housing. Dignifying them with responsibility through chore assignments increases a sense of self-worth and appreciation for the space in which they live, while requiring a small fee for rent teaches them to manage their finances in an environment where it’s safe to fail.

Helping youth exit the streets quickly benefits the larger community

Research has shown that homeless or runaway youth are 50% less likely to have a high school diploma or GED, are prone to weaker health over their lifetime, and are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested as adults than their stably housed peers.

This means that quickly assisting youth off the streets increases their ability to contribute positively to society and decreases long-term welfare costs. For example, transitional housing and care centers like New Horizons have a much lesser impact on tax-payers than necessarily robust juvenile detention centers and prisons.

Generally, when compared to homeless adults, homeless youth are much more likely to become successful and independent when connected to critical resources by minimizing their time on the streets and the streets’ negative, lasting effects on a young person’s life.


This article does not aim to suggest or minimize the necessary work many organizations and individuals are doing to help homeless adults off of the streets. We are proud to be among several organizations in Seattle working to help all individuals suffering from the cruelty of life on the streets.

To read more about youth homelessness, its causes, and potential solutions, we recommend the resources used for the information in this article:

Improving Outcomes for Homeless Youth – Social Issue Report

What Works to End Youth Homelessness – National Network for Youth

 

New HorizonsThree Differences Between Youth and Adult Homelessness
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How Construction Led to Empathy for Youth on the Streets

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If this blog post were a phone call, it would be a hot mess.

I’d be shouting, you’d be confused, and I couldn’t hear anything you said, which would probably make me shout louder, only to make you more confused.

Why, you ask?

There’s construction happening quite literally just outside our front door, and to say our office is loud would be like saying the Empire State Building is “pretty tall” – accurate, but not nearly accurate enough.

The rhythm of my days goes something like this: I’ll settle in at my desk to get something done only to rediscover myself a few seconds later, staring into space, nodding my head rhythmically and obediently to the jackhammer’s song, paralyzed by the constant stimulation of every construction-related noise fathomable.

Even when the jackhammer pauses, the silence is unpredictably accented by bangs, pops, booms, and pows, and it’s enough to make even the most level-headed person develop an eye twitch.

The more this construction has interrupted and frustrated me, the more it’s shifted my mind to the youth that come to New Horizons every day – and become an unexpected source of empathy.

Sometimes people ask us why youth on the streets don’t just go to school or get a job, wondering why youth don’t just “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and work harder to improve their current situation.

While many youth are working very hard to put themselves through school, trying to make ends meet at one or two jobs, and doing everything in their power to live as sustainably as they can, for some, taking steps toward sustainability is a lot like what happens to me when I try to be productive amidst the construction racket.

The Impact of Poverty on Cognitive Function

Let me explain by first pointing out a study that demonstrated that the stress of poverty can lower a person’s IQ by as much as 13 points. One author compared the study’s findings to the way a person feels after a night of no sleep, saying, “Picture yourself after an all-nighter. Being poor is like that every day.”

Poverty takes a significant toll on its victims’ ability to get ahead by making it more difficult to think clearly and make decisions for the long term.

So when a young man still in crucial stages of cognitive development experiences poverty and the brutality of street life on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that he might have a hard time getting a job – his mental resources are completely overloaded and overstimulated, so much so that he may be hardly able to do anything.

Poverty affects youth the way the construction affected me.

Its effects create dozens of daily mental interruptions that prevent youth from meeting longer term needs related to self-actualization and force them to continually devote what few mental resources they have toward basic needs like food, shelter, sleep, and safety.

For example, let’s say this hypothetical young man sits down to apply for a job at a library computer to help him start earning income and eventually afford rent, when BAM – he’s interrupted by the familiar pangs of hunger. He pauses, thinks of a services center where he could get lunch, shakes it off, and tries to focus.

POW – he remembers that place isn’t open on Tuesdays, so he interrupts his application to search for another location where he could get food, only to find that the next meal he can get isn’t for seven more hours.

A little discouraged, he takes a sip of water to soothe his empty stomach and tries to focus again, filling out a couple of lines to an application for a local pizza joint when BOOM – his eyelids grow heavy. Now that he’s settled into a comfortable chair in the air-conditioned library, his body is begging for sleep after several nights in a row of bouncing from shelter to shelter.

Despite his best efforts, he nods off at the computer, only to be awakened by the librarian and gently asked to leave for breaking the Rules of Conduct. He leaves his application unfinished, heads out the door, and by the time he buses to another library, he has only a few minutes to work on the application before it closes.

As he leaves, he feels down on his luck after trying to get ahead during the day, and BANG – the familiar voice he heard in the home he had to leave resounds through his mind: you’re not good enough. You can’t do anything. He spends the rest of his day sitting in a local park until he can get a meal and a spot in a shelter that night, where he hopes he can sleep until the next day comes, hoping it will be different than this one.

These constant interruptions of mind and body are what youth must endure on a daily basis as they seek to exit street life. 

How You Make a Difference

Though some youth may have to experience these interruptions now, your support of Drop-In centers and shelters like New Horizons offers significant support by offering consistent access to services youth need to meet the basic needs poverty takes from them.

Both the Young Adult Emergency Shelter and The Nest are refuges for 34 youth at a time, minimizing the time a young person has to spend answering the question of where and how they’ll sleep safely that night. Even if youth can’t make it to our building before 9PM, they can call to reserve a spot for themselves in shelter so they can spend their day thinking about things other than where they’ll go when the sun goes down.

Youth have access to showers, laundry services, and a hot meal at Drop-In. Perhaps equally as important, youth can relax for a couple hours while they play games or watch a show on our projector, finding some much-needed time to stop thinking altogether and just relax – a luxury of the stably housed and well-fed.

Job training programs offer youth the opportunity to gain employment experience and attend leadership classes where they learn skills like financial literacy and conflict-resolution techniques. Youth develop skills necessary for success in an environment where it’s safe to fail (i.e., to learn).

Every day, with support from you and our community, youth overcome unbelievably difficult obstacles to take steps toward stability, and frequently, they do it graciously and generously.


While my experience with the construction outside the office was maddening, it was a welcome window of empathy into the experience of the men and women who come to New Horizons looking for a break from both the internal and external pressures of the streets.

Now, whenever I’m interrupted by what sounds like the beginning of The Big One, I think I’ll try to forgo the frustration and instead say a little prayer for youth doing their best to meet their needs, especially as they deal with the many frustrations and interruptions of poverty, instability, and homelessness.

And as I do that, I’ll hold on to the hope that, just as the construction outside our office will one day be over, so will the poverty and instability that currently affect the resilient young men and women whose home is, for now, here at New Horizons.

New HorizonsHow Construction Led to Empathy for Youth on the Streets
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