How do young people find places to live in the crazy Seattle housing market?

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You don’t have to live on the streets to feel the stress of Seattle’s ballooning housing market, now leading the country in home-price growth for over a year. Competition for affordable housing has crept into nearly every economic bracket, pushing long-time residents out of their homes and changing the face of our neighborhoods and suburbs as Amazon and others bring in talented work from around the world.

It’s no surprise, then, that Seattle isn’t teeming with affordable places to live for low-income individuals seeking to escape the streets.

However, there are a handful of options available, and that’s where our case managers are able to work their magic.

Case managers work with youth to navigate Seattle’s complex housing market and the programs available to help make housing affordable for young people trying to leave the streets. Together, case managers worked with over 100 youth find a stable place to live in 2016.

But, you might be wondering, where do these youth go with such a crazy real estate landscape surrounding us?

There are four primary programs and means for making housing available to help youth leave the streets, and your support helps youth find access to each through supportive relationships with case managers and staff.

1. Community Hospitality

While they aren’t the most common source of housing, programs that involve the community more directly are sometimes ways for youth to exit the streets.

We’ve partnered with Accelerator YMCA’s Host Homes to recruit members of the community who are willing and able to open a room in their home to a young person who is well on his or her way to affording housing, but isn’t quite there yet. These young adults are working and/or in school, and just need a few months of support to fully exit the streets when other programs don’t have space or overlook them as “too successful” to be in need of assistance.

Community support is one of the most relationship-centered ways for us to support youth on the streets.

(P.S. – If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a Host Home, check out this video & fill out the form at the bottom of this page. Someone will be in touch via email.)

2. Financial Assistance to Afford Market Housing

Imagine when you were leaving home to live on your own for the first time. You might have worked a full- or part-time job to keep on top of your monthly bills, but odds your parents or someone in your life was there to support you with rent or a phone bill if you needed help.

Financial assistance programs provide this kind of funding for youth who do not have a support system in their life that can provide for them in this way. Some financial assistance can help young people stay in housing by allowing them to make rent or pay utilities that month, or by providing 3-6 months of decreasing rent support as a young person works toward more financial stability on his or her own.

It acts as a safety net for individuals who might otherwise become homeless without support.

Home at Last is a program that recently helped Jesse get an apartment. The program offers monthly rent support until a young person no longer needs it.

3. Transitional Living Programs

Perhaps the most common type of housing assistance for youth, transitional living programs offer youth a stable place to stay for anywhere from 1-2 years.

These facilities range in what they offer, but most are community living spaces with private rooms and other shared spaces, like kitchens and entertainment rooms. Most require a small fee or only charge income-based rent, which is significantly more affordable than paying rent in Puget Sound and consequently frees youth to work or go to school while they save and plan for the future.

Frequently, these “TLPs” have a few community rules around shared spaces that encourage responsibility and consideration of others, much like campus dormitories would have for youth of similar ages who were attending college.

The apartments above the University District Street Bean offer affordable apartments as part of a transitional living program for young adults. There’s even a community garden on the roof, managed by the U-District Food Bank. (Image courtesy Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce)

4. Clinically Supportive Housing

Finally, these programs are similar to transitional living programs, but offer some kind of specialized support for residents with illnesses or addictions.

For example, one young man was able to find housing with financial assistance, but due to a mental illness was not able to thrive living entirely on his own without anyone to support him. His case manager helped him find a spot in a clinically supportive facility, where he receives clinical supervision by people who know what he needs to be successful.

It is a much more compassionate situation for him, because he is not only stably housed, but also relationally and clinically supported.

Unfortunately, these programs are rare and funding is limited. Many more young people could be successful with the supports these programs offer.

Clinically supportive housing provides youth who need mental health or chemical dependency support the opportunity to lead healthy, whole lives by offering necessary support as they begin to live independently.

Despite Seattle’s rapid expansion, we’re grateful that your support and partnership allows us to connect youth to resources like these programs so that they’re able to pursue their goals and get on to bigger, better, healthier, happier, stably housed lives.

Host Homes Interest Form

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New HorizonsHow do young people find places to live in the crazy Seattle housing market?
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Four Skills Apprentices Learn that Might Surprise You

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Since Street Bean began in 2009, many youth have had the opportunity to develop skills as talented baristas, cultivating a trade that makes it possible for them to enter the specialty coffee industry while they pursue school, stable housing, and other avenues of employment.

Over the years, it’s become increasingly apparent that when youth work as apprentices in our Youth Employment Program, they learn much more than a single skill to help them find work in the future.

Through job training apprenticeships, youth learn not only the hard skills relevant to a specific industry (i.e., highly measurable skills like doing math or programming software or steaming really great latte milk), but also the soft skills necessary for any future employment opportunity.

What are soft skills? They’re the difficult to measure, but highly desirable skills and abilities like how to communicate, work on a team, be on time for your shifts, and manage your time & emotions.

And as it turns out, these soft skills are among the most important skills a young person can bring to a job interview. In a 2016 survey of over 300 managers in the U.S., four of the most-desired skills in a prospective employee were communication, organization, teamwork, and punctuality. Many youth who are homeless have not had the opportunity to learn these types of soft skills at home, like most of their stably housed peers.

While many youth who complete apprenticeships with Street Bean or our other partners may not end up with careers in the coffee or food service industry, apprentices have the opportunity to hone at least four soft skills during their apprenticeships that equip them for success no matter what career path they take.

1. How to manage personal finances

When a young person is hired on as an apprentice, part of their paid workload is to attend the New Horizons Leadership Institute, a series of weekly classes that equip youth to deal with the parts of life we all love to hate – personal finances, time management, and conflict resolution, to name a few.

One class is taught by a local banking professional, who covers everything from the basics of budgeting to understanding and learning to use credit. As apprentices receive a monthly stipend, they have the opportunity to put into practice the financial skills they learn through the Leadership Institute, like any young adult who’s just begun working.

2. How to communicate well

Anyone who has worked a job knows that the first few days can be nerve-wracking, especially in the service industry. There are customers to serve & keep happy, and any mistake can reflect poorly on the business.

Youth at New Horizons have a safe place to fail on the job. We expect punctuality, good communication, and good work ethic from apprentices, but we also understand that circumstances may affect someone’s ability to deliver on all of those qualities every day.

The Youth Employment Program aims to create a safe place and clear system in which youth learn to communicate their needs and ask for help when necessary without fear of punishment or job termination. As we create a safe place for this kind of on-the-job communication, youth have the opportunity to learn to call in to work if they’re going to be late or out sick, to find other coworkers to cover shifts, and how to deal with conflicts on the job.

3. How to manage time

Simply having a time and place they must be somewhere compels many apprentices to schedule their time more intentionally. It creates a schedule around which youth can work on their hobbies and other activities, and the structure of a schedule generally invites more stability than life on the streets.

Some Leadership Institute classes offer tips on time management and similar soft skills, and our Youth Employment Coordinator and Case Managers frequently listen to youth who are working on developing good work & time management habits.

4. How to invest in themselves through other opportunities

Many apprentices use job training as a step toward their other goals. Often, once youth get a job through the Youth Employment Program and a stable place to sleep in The Nest, they begin taking even more steps toward stability, like pursuing a high school diploma, starting community college, or applying for undergraduate programs.

It’s encouraging to watch young people begin to believe even more deeply in their own potential once they begin working regularly. It’s not necessarily the tasks or to-do’s associated with the job that make a difference; often, it’s merely the opportunity to contribute as equals that encourages youth to pursue longer term goals.

Recently, a young woman walked out of class eager to examine how much of hers & her boyfriend’s budget was going toward coffee. When she returned with the verdict, she was understandably less excited, but quite determined to spend less on the caramel lattes she’d grown to love at Street Bean, all because of what she’d learned through the Leadership Institute.

And while it’s disappointing to learn that it might be a better choice not to drink so many caramel lattes, it’s exciting to see her and many others in the Youth Employment Program putting the soft skills they’re learning into practice.

New HorizonsFour Skills Apprentices Learn that Might Surprise You
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A Year of More | The 2017 Annual Report

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We try to say it often, but still it bears repeating:

Your support makes it possible for homeless youth to find the stability and support they need to exit street life.

The past year has been no exception. Since we last released an Annual Report, New Horizons has grown, shifted, and adapted to the needs of youth on King County’s streets.

We’ve sought to listen to young people’s feedback and to hire clinically trained staff who are able to offer the most culturally responsive services possible, all in order to best meet the needs of the young people we’re privileged to know and serve.

And because of your support, this year has been a year of good news & growth, of change and chances to succeed. But there’s one word that comes to mind more than others when we think about the story of the past year:

The story of the last year at New Horizons has been more.

With your help, youth living on Seattle’s streets have been increasingly empowered through more resources, more relationships, more job training, and more housing, and none of it would be possible without our faithful community of supporters like you. Just look at these highlights:

This year’s Annual Report demonstrates the power of your impact to make a real difference in real youth’s lives.

As you’ve partnered with us to offer more of the resources & relationships that empower youth to fulfill their potential, we’ve been overjoyed to see them flourishing as they’ve received safe, stable places to live, more opportunities to work and contribute their skills to our community, and consistent love and support that dignifies their humanity and God-given worth.

Use the button below to read this year’s full report of all you’ve partnered with us to offer this year, and thank you for making it possible for youth to have more of what they need.

What’s Inside the Annual Report

  • an important announcement from Executive Director Mary Steele
  • how you’ve played a role in Jesse’s story
  • details on how you’ve given youth more access to life-saving resources this year
  • the vital role Adam has taken on as a weekly youth church attendee
  • photos of youth who have been empowered into sustainable futures
  • how we steward financial gifts

…and more!

New HorizonsA Year of More | The 2017 Annual Report
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What You Need to Know about the 2017 Count Us In Report


For several years, Count Us In, King County’s one-night count of homeless and unstably housed individuals, returned the same numbers: there were somewhere around 800-850 youth on the streets in King County, with at least 200-300 of them spending each night in alleyways, under bridges, in cars, or in tents.

Curiously, as we and other youth service providers added more youth-specific shelter beds, that number remained mostly unchanged.

Now, we know why.

This year’s count was conducted using updated methodology from previous years. All Home, the agency that manages the survey, employed guides for each survey group who were currently or had recently experienced homelessness to canvass census tracts, rather than sending out volunteer teams to pre-identified “known areas” frequented by those living on the streets as they had in previous years. The result was a strikingly different count, particularly of youth and young adults.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the notable findings in the 2017 report:

There are close to 12,000 people experiencing homelessness in King County.

The count returned the exact tally of people (of any age) living on the streets at 11,643. A slightly larger half of those (53%) are sheltered in emergency or transitional shelters, while a slightly smaller half is unsheltered, meaning they live on the streets, in an abandoned building, out of a motor vehicle of some kind, or in a tent.

Those identified as homeless are mostly from King County.

77% of survey participants were residents of King County when they lost their housing. Only 9% reported living in another state at the time of entry onto the streets.

People of color are disproportionately affected.

While African-Americans make up just 6% of King County’s population, 29% of Count Us In respondents were African American. Similarly, when comparing representation among the homeless population vs. general population: Hispanics made up 14% compared to 9%; American Indian/Alaskan Native comprised 6% compared to 1%; and multi-racial participants made up 15% compared to 6%.

We previously underestimated the number of homeless or unstably housed youth by over 75%.

Count Us In 2017 tallied 1,498 unaccompanied youth and young adults between ages 13-25. This dramatic change is not due to an increased presence of youth on the streets but is believed to be more accurate count due to this year’s improved data collection methods.

Over 75% of these youth are unsheltered.

Even when we believed there were only 200-300 youth on the streets each night (and not sleeping on a friend’s couch or in a car, etc.), we knew the number of youth-specific beds was insufficient to meet the need. This year’s findings only confirm and make more urgent the need to provide more youth-friendly housing in Seattle and King County, since Count Us In showed that over 75% of the youth surveyed spend their nights on the streets, in abandoned buildings, in a tent, or in a car.

Many youth move from foster care to the streets.

While 19% of all individuals on the streets reported a history of foster care, 29% of youth under age 25 and 33% of those identifying as LGBTQ said they’d spent time in foster care. Many of these youth age out of their foster homes at 18 and have nowhere else to go.

Youth identifying as LGBTQ make up nearly one-third of the homeless young adult population.

As we have long known, youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer are much more likely to end up homeless than their heterosexual counterparts; however, this year’s report shows a higher percentage (29%) of LGBTQ youth on the streets than before.

What do these findings mean for us?

This year’s report comes as a wake-up call for everyone concerned with empowering youth and young adults into their best possible futures.

The report also demonstrates that, while the number of youth is higher than previously thought, there is hope. Local government and service providers’ focus on housing homeless families has resulted in 97% of those families receiving housing. This focus can bring our young adults inside, as well.

If we focus on early intervention for youth and young adults the same way we have focused on families, we create the opportunity for them to escape chronic homelessness and live full, healthy lives as fulfilled, contributing citizens.

Thank you for your partnership that has already opened 34 shelter beds at New Horizons in the last two years. With more efforts like these and friends like you, we truly believe we can make a significant impact for our teenagers and young adults whose circumstances have left them to live on our streets.

With your help, we believe we can continue making a difference – enough of a difference that no child, teenager, or young adult has to call King County’s streets home.

Read the full Count Us In report here.

New HorizonsWhat You Need to Know about the 2017 Count Us In Report
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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.


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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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.”


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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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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