“Now everyday that I walk out of my building I see homeless people sleeping and chillin’ on the steps to the apartment that I live in…We’ve come to accept the homeless as a part of our landscape. The money the government wastes could provide them with a space place to eat and sleep. But we cease to see that our own country is based around war, power and greed. We’ve got families on the street with nowhere to go, and the concrete’s the only place they have to call home.” - City Don’t Sleep, Macklemore.
With weather like todays, it worries me that there are 500-2,000 homeless youth in Seattle on any given night. It’s a terrifying reality that many youth in Seattle and King County face. In fact, there are more than 1.5 million children and young adults trying to survive on the streets of the U.S. today. More often than not, they did not choose to become homeless, but were forced to leave their living situation for a number of reasons. Understanding homelessness is hard; it’s a complex issue that occurs in every socio-economic and racial group in America. For some reason, there is a misconception that homeless youth are homeless by their choice, which results in a stigma against the population. However, many homeless youth leave their homes because of a combination of abuse, family problems, or other circumstances that lead them to feel unsafe at home.
"Now every face tells a different story, a different message. Now how can we judge the book when we don't know the beginning. We don't know what turned 'em to the bottle , or started injectin', we just see dirty clothes and another bum beggin'…We don't want to face it…Now think about your home, and the place that you sleep. And the homeless, who only have the concrete."
As a person who has never experienced homelessness, I can’t tell you what it is truly like, but I can speak on my growth as I learned to interact with folks who are experiencing homelessness. The homeless newspaper "Real Change" is sold outside of my work. I see people become uncomfortable when they encounter a homeless person. I see people shut down. They avoid eye contact and rarely offer any response to the vendor’s friendliness. As someone who interacts with the vendor on a daily basis I have learned the impact of a simple smile. That is how it started for me, by simply offering a smile and a “hello” as I walked in to work. Conversations soon followed, and I could notice myself becoming much more comfortable with their company. Now when I see others’ discomfort, I realize how common these feelings truly are. Personally, I believe that my connection to someone who was homeless has given me a greater insight and confidence when confronted with the issue of homelessness.
"Now if you wanna see change, then throw your ones in the air. You think the system that we're livin' is not fair? You wanna see change, then put your ones in the air. Now point it to the ground, 'cause change starts right there… Now point 'em to yourself, 'cause change starts right there"
If you are looking for more information about youth homelessness, local shelters or drop-in centers, etc. the phone worker will be able to answer your questions and provide information. Here are some examples of youth shelters in the greater Seattle area, and their websites.
- Youthcare: www.youthcare.org
- ROOTS young adult shelter (18-25 years old): www.rootsinfo.org
- Friends of Youth: www.friendsofyouth.org
If you would like to talk to someone about anything, big or small, Teen Link is available to you. We're completely anonymous and confidential, and the line is answered by trained teens in King County. Our phone number is 1(866)833-6546. You can call Teen Link every night (6-10pm) and have chat available through our website (www.866teenlink.org) on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.