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!