Monday, August 30, 2010

Seattle Program gives homeless youth a voice in more ways than one


Peace for the Streets by Kids From the Streets (PSKS)

"We Provide support and services to Seattle area homeless youth and young adults. Our committed efforts are targeted at providing stepping stones to transition youths from the streets to self-sufficiency and productive roles in community."

PSKS was began as a project - a one day concert planned by, then teacher, Elain Simons with some of her students. After the concert was done, Elaine went back to school, but her students wanted it to continue. What started there has grown into a program unlike any other in Seattle where the participants, homeless and formerly homeless young adults, can take pride and ownership on a higher level if they are interested.

Recently, Teen Link staff and volunteers did a site visit at PSKS to get some firsthand knowledge of what this org that has been serving the youth of Seattle for 15 years actually does, what they are all about and what makes them so special.

Upon walking in and immediately being greeted and welcomed into the space, we were taken on a brief tour of the facility. "Cluttered" is NOT the right word to describe the space because everything seems to be in it's proper place, but there definitely is A LOT of stuff - from toys for toddlers to blankets and toiletries - PSKS seems to have it all covered, which speaks to how MUCH it is that this seemingly small org actually gets done. All of these items are easily accessed and the best part - NOTHING is locked up. This contributes to the laid back/relaxed atmosphere of the center. The walls are also adorned with artwork

After a brief tour, we sat down to speak with Elaine Simons, founder and executive director and ask her a few questions:

Who do you serve?
 - That depends on the program. Each program we offer deals with a different group of young people. But, there is no exit age for the agency. Technically they stop serving youth at age 26, but there are opportunities for participants to then volunteer or apply to work as staff members.

What are your programs? Click here for a complete list of PSKS programs.
 - RISK (Reinventing Steps to Knowledge): high school completion/GED program for young adults
- LEAP (Lasting Employment Advancement Program): PSKS hires young adults who show promise for three-month internships
- STEP Up: Peer organized women's support group
- Step Beyond: support group for formerly homeless youth

(If all that wasn't enough, there are: a ton of ongoing daytime workshops geared toward teaching homeless youth how to advocate for themselves; an ongoing forum of dialogues between the police, business owners and homeless youth to encourage peaceful coexistence; and CORE membership which allows for homeless youth to take some ownership of the program, participate in the decision making process and represent PSKS in public.)

What makes PSKS special?
We try to break down as many barriers as we can for the clients. Once people come through the door, they have access to pretty much everything. Staff are on the same floor as the clients are, clients with felony charges are still served, dogs are also welcome in the center. These are common barriers for many homeless young people, preventing them from moving forward, receiving services and from trusting the system.

Click on the link to view a documentary about street kids from the PSKS website:

And if you'd like to go check out PSKS yourself, click HERE to view a map of their location.

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