I was lucky enough to be asked to be the Meal Team Leader last Thursday at the Teen Feed Count Us In site. During the extended two hour meal we served over 80 youth and young adults ages 13-25, and the many volunteers who came to help out. Following is an excellent summary of Count Us In and the importance of counting a population that has until very recently been “hidden” in our plain sight.
If you are interested in joining me in Olympia at Housing and Homelessness Advocacy Day on February 11th please contact me at email@example.com.
Repost: Everyone Counts: Homeless Youth & Young Adult 2013 Count Us In
Homeless counts will have taken place in every county across the country by the end of January. In this series, “Everyone Counts,” our partners at Firesteel explore the importance of these counts and hear what impact they had on some of the thousands of volunteers in Western Washington. In this post, Ashwin from Seattle University shares insights from the Count Us In homeless youth and young adult count–a population which has only recently been counted!
By Ashwin Warrior, Project Assistant, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness; Senior, Seattle University.
At 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24, the doors to the basement of University Congregational Church in Seattle’s University District swing open, and the youth flow in out of the cold.
They are greeted by warmth and smiles, offered dry clothes and small sets of toiletries, and —perhaps most importantly—fed a warm meal.
Since 1987, the non-profit organization Teen Feed has been providing regular meals to the University District’s homeless youth population. In 2011, the organization served more than 13,200 meals to 690 individual youths in need.
Tonight, however, is about more than food. As the youth sit down to an enchilada dinner, volunteers disperse among the crowd, clipboards and pens in hand.
Teen Feed is one of the providers at the center of King County’s third annual Count Us In initiative, an effort started in 2011 to better count youth and young adults who are unstably housed or homeless. This is the first time that Count Us In has been aligned with the One Night Count in King County.
The effort is led by a steering committee that comprises of United Way of King County, the City of Seattle, King County and youth & young adult providers. The goal is to end homelessness among youth and young adults – “unaccompanied youth” ages 12-24 – by 2020.
Volunteers and staff interviewed youth and young adults at centralized sites around the county, including libraries, drop-in centers and meal programs. Some providers also went into the community to do outreach and find the young people. The survey they used includes questions such as where the young person slept the night before, but also gets into some of the major causes of homelessness among this group, including whether the young person has ever been in foster care.
The U.S. Interagency Council (USICH) selected King County and Washington state as one of nine locations to participate in a national pilot to collect data on youth homelessness.
Data gathered from Teen Feed and numerous other youth agencies across King County, including Auburn Youth Resources, Friends of Youth and YouthCare’s Orion Center, will be added to the One Night Count estimates and reported to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It will also be used to better tailor youth services across the county.
As one worker of the night, Alex Okerman of the YMCA’s Young Adult Services, explains, “It’s really essential to understanding homelessness. If we’re going to try and do something to stop it, by asking questions about these young adults and what their past experiences are like…we can get to the root of some of the issues.” Hear more of his thoughts below:
Many locations also hosted a sleepover for the youth who participated in the Count.
Skateboards lined the wall at Teen Feed’s Count Us In sleepover. Photo tweeted by @teenfeedseattle, Jan. 25, 2013.
The second Count Us In, in 2012, recorded a conservative number of 685 unstably housed youth and young adults in King County. Preliminary results from Count Us In will be available soon; watch for more here on Firesteel.
Submitted by Jessica Trupin, Temple Beth Am Member
On Friday, December 14th, after hearing about the shootings in Newtown, I posted a notice to Facebook. I would open my living room every other Sunday at 3pm for the foreseeable future to anyone who wanted to “do something”. On Sunday the 16th nine people gathered. The Come Home Alive Initiative was created from that first meeting.
Our founding mission is this: The Come Home Alive Initiative (CHAI) is committed to a violence-free America so our children come home alive from school or play, soldiers come home alive from our wars, and each of us finds in our minds a place to which we may come home alive. CHAI is a group of parents, educators, and activists who came together in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings to lobby for legislation, dismantle our nation’s culture of fear and violence, and raise awareness of peaceful alternatives.
On December 30th we were fortunate to have the executive director of Washington CeaseFire come speak with us. This Sunday, January 13th, we will be joining the march from Westlake Park to the Seattle Center: StandUp Washington : Turning Anger in to Action.
We will be supporting the assault weapons ban this session, but beyond that, we’re committed to a broader view than the us v. them paradigm that’s kept a grip on our national dialogue. Sensible, responsible gun owners are more than welcome and are, in fact, crucial to this conversation.
If you’re interested, we currently exist only on Facebook as the Densmore Working Group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/485572574828611/?bookmark_t=group) and in my living room, so please email me either at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on Facebook. The name CHAI was a lucky accident.
Jessica C. Trupin
email@example.com ∙ 206-992-6684
Post by Guest Blogger Suzi LeVine
In 2006, a lunatic got into the Seattle Jewish Federation offices and shot/killed people. This man wasn’t just a lunatic. He was/is a terrorist. He struck terror into the hearts of the Jews throughout Seattle. The day after the incident, a group of us met on a hillside our neighborhood, with a police officer stationed nearby to keep us safe. To the depths of our souls, we were afraid. That’s terror. That’s what terrorists do.
To help keep our community safe, many of the Jewish institutions in Washington State received funding to turn their facilities into fortresses. I was on the board of Hillel (the Jewish Student organization at the University of Washington) at the time and we really wrestled with this conundrum. We wanted to make sure that students felt that it was an open and hospitable environment. Yet – we needed our staff and students to be safe. We had just built a beautiful window-filled building designed to convey that sense of welcoming and lightness.
6 years later, we have bullet proof front glass doors, an intercom system to buzz people in, a surveillance system that captures footage of the surrounding area, and armed police officers for many of the big events. Fortunately, students are resilient and they have continued to come. They have grown accustomed to a new – and perverse – normal.
In 2007, my family and I went to Israel and, during our trip, went to a mall in Eilat to buy some sandals. We went through metal detectors that were staffed by young men with very large and imposing guns. Throughout their country, Israelis go through security to shop and live their lives. They have grown accustomed to a new – and perverse – normal.
Today, I drove my 2 elementary school kids to their respective schools. There was a police officer at my daughter’s school but no noticeable security at my son’s school. I have never been scared of dropping my children off at school before. But my brain couldn’t help but run through macabre scenarios at what are sweet and very open/accessible schools. Would some crazy young man (they are all young men, unfortunately) go into the school with a semi-automatic weapon and murder my babies? Of course the odds are against that happening, but are there mentally ill copy cats who would do that? Just last year, some dumb high school students carried fake plastic weapons onto the play area of one of our neighborhood elementary schools. Granted, they wouldn’t fire on anyone – but if there can be non-mentally ill high school students who do something as moronic as that (last I checked, “stupid” wasn’t classified as a mental illness), then it’s not a stretch for someone to bring a real weapon to one of the schools
So what’s the solution? How do we reduce the terror? How do we reduce the gun violence?
There are far more qualified people thinking about the criminal science and legislative angles on this. But here are just a few ideas from a mom who wants to make sure that, tonight, I get to kiss and hug my babies:
Eliminate the weapons and their ammo – we need federal, state and municipal efforts on this:
- Ban them and make it impossibly hard to acquire and/or keep them – including ones that people already own (when legislation gets introduced on this, it’ll be incumbent on all of us to work hard and make a ton of phone calls in support of this legislation. The Pro-Assault Gun lobby has a lot more money and will do a lot to stop this, but we are stronger).
- Buy them back from people so that they feel fairly compensated (And for those who say that only the people who are truly dangerous will then be able to acquire them, I have only to point out that, if Adam Lanza’s mother had not been able to LEGALLY acquire the weapons she had, maybe he would not have been able to do what he did). Here’s more on the NY andChicago buy back programs. Each program had pros/cons – but if you can couple the ban WITH a buy back program, perhaps it can be more successful.
- Make the ammo cost (as Chris Rock says) $5,000/bullet.
- Charge obscene levels of taxes on any weapon related purchases. If we can tax soda, cigarettes, gas and candy more, we sure as heck can tax weapons/ammo more.
Especially in the interim when the politicians are fighting/hashing through what can still respect the 2nd amendment – Turn the schools into fortresses
- If you can’t keep a lunatic from getting a weapon – then you better tell me you’ll make it a heck of a lot harder for them to get into my kid’s school. Governors, Mayors, Senators, Presidents – find the funding to get my kids’ schools secure. I don’t want my kids’ principals to have to tackle the lunatic. I don’t want the lunatic to get into the school.
- One thing NOT to do, though, is to introduce more guns to the situation. It’s truly insane to think that arming and training teachers/school administrators to USE and keep guns is going to prevent gun violence. So – what – you want to have a Wyatt Earp style standoff next to the girls bathroom and lockers? That’s not okay.
Address the mental health crisis
- At both of my kids’ schools, one of the first things cut with budget limitations was a school counselor. What if school counselors and mental health were the top priorities?
- Better fund early learning – as that’s the time to identify and address many of the issues that eventually balloon into much bigger issues. What if we could identify a lapse in brain development in the area of the brain pertaining to empathy – and then provide strategies and tools for development? What if programs like Roots of Empathy could help EVERY student develop those areas more effectively. Prof. James Heckman from the U of Chicago did a study that showed that, for every dollar we invest in early learning (zero to 5 in his study) we save $7-14 later in incarceration, rehabilitation, and other crime related costs.
Given how long it will probably take to pass and then enact legislation, I would suggest that we need parallel action tracks to address this scourge on society.
Ever since they were teeny, I would emphasize to them that my number one job (besides loving them) was to keep them safe. For example, if they were doing something fun, but dangerous (playing with sharp sticks), I would be a buzzkill and tell them to put the sticks down. After they guffawed with a two syllable “mo-om!” I would simply ask: “what’s my main job” – and they’d put the stick down while reluctantly saying “keep me safe”.
This time “keeping them safe” feels much more daunting, especially since it relies on the whole community and country. But I’ve watched enough movies to know that, when the group comes together to take down the bad guy, the group – and good – always triumphs.
Change on this front is not going to happen if we don’t push for it. So – while I still feel afraid today to drop my kids off at school, I am going to work hard to make sure that condition doesn’t persist – and I ask you to help too.
For a start – here are some resources/places to engage and stay tuned to the effort:
- White House Petition on this
- Move on’s petition on this
- www.demandaplan.org – Mayor Bloomberg’s NY initiative
Also – call your Mayor’s, governor’s, and state legislators’ offices. There’s a lot that can be done locally and not just federally.
Lastly – Take 18 minutes to watch President Obama’s speech last night at the Newtown interfaith vigil.
Be ready. Your help will be needed.