As homelessness spreads across the country, more individuals are spending their nights in cars or under bridges. Many people feel as if they are bystanders to the complicated matter of homelessness and that its solutions seem far off. However, for the staggering number of homeless youth that exist in Seattle, there are organizations that work valiantly on getting people off the streets such as the Faith and Family Homelessness Program and the Project on Family Homelessness at Seattle University.
The two organizations hold workshops, complete social media campaigns and raise awareness to get people to take action. The two programs, headed by Lisa Gustaveson and Catherine Hinrichsen, respectively, not only educate the community about homelessness–including the 30,609 homeless students aged 3 to 21-years-old in Washington–but also inform and empower people to make change.
One of the best ways to help homeless people is to talk to a local congressman, according to both Gustaveson and Hinrichsen.
“Homelessness is the result of poor poverty policy.” Gustaveson said.
While the typical perception of a homeless person may include a man with a large beard and ragged clothing, one of the most at-risk groups to become homeless is children.
Children who do their absolute best to stay in school–even while they do not have a permanent home–deserve resources that can make their commute to and from school easier, as well as school provided services, according to Hinrichsen.
“What is the smartest way to spend your education dollars? Making sure the kids have stable places to sleep is so closely tied to their academic success,” Hinrichsen said.
One of Hinrichsen and Gustaveson’s main projects include creating info graphics that showcase the reality of homeless people’s situations. However, according to Hinrichsen, “Data only goes so far. You need to have the data but you need to show who is behind it. When you’re going down to Olympia to talk to lawmakers, you need to have people talking about how these laws directly affect them.”
The next step after informing people of an issue is getting them to act on it.
There are many events scheduled across the state that will raise awareness and provide resources for homeless people.
Interfaith Advocacy day, an event to encourage politicians to address issues that are arising in the community, will take place on Feb. 19 in Olympia. On Jan. 22, an event called One Night Count will occur in Seattle and across the country, in which volunteers will walk around the streets and count the number of people they see sleeping in tents, on sidewalks or in cars. By collecting this data, Seattle and King County Coalition on Homelessness can more accurately report the number of homeless people living in the city.
Housing 4 Success is a recently established program at the Resources for Education and Career Help center in Tacoma. The REACH center is a resource for homeless people to attend job fairs, complete career training programs, GED courses, and develop life skills such as cooking. By opening their doors to a younger demographic of homeless people, the REACH center has now taken a very important first step towards tackling the issue of youth homelessness.
Other institutions, such as Seattle Pacific University, do their part to address youth homelessness as well. SPU currently hosts Tent City, a public area for homeless people to pitch their tents and work as a community to get through the cold winter months. Tent City is in its third year at SPU.
At Seattle U, reaching out to either of the two homelessness projects is a great start to alleviating the issue of homelessness.