On a beautiful autumn day, Community Outreach Team Member Kris Bennett and I traveled into the heart of Seattle to visit New Horizons. Created in 1978 to serve street youth in the downtown Seattle area, New Horizons has grown substantially, and provides comprehensive services to youth experiencing homelessness. New Horizons is a safe place for youth ages 13 – 23, who find themselves homeless, on the streets, vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking as well as drugs and deep loneliness.
As we toured, Executive Director Mary Steele shared about street youth. In 2015, over 5000 young people ages 18-24 experienced a period of homelessness in Seattle. On any given night, between 800 and 1500 youth are sleeping on the streets, under bridges, and in city parks. The New Horizons website states, “The young men and women we work with hear the same story day after day: they are unloved and unlovable. We choose to tell a better story – one of restoration, reconciliation, and sustainability. It’s a story of transformation over time; gradual, subtle change that leads to long-term, lasting success. Ours is a story of walking alongside homeless youth on their journey toward healing.”
One of New Horizons’ beautiful gifts to street youth is the establishment in 2012 of a 12-bed onsite housing facility on the top floor of their building. Kris and I were struck by the safety, security and hominess of each “bedroom.” Every night, twelve young people have a safe place to stay, with cubbies for personal items, a clean bed with a gorgeous quilt, and a living room for gathering, reading, writing and dreaming about the future. This housing area enables youth to get back on their feet and prepare to move into permanent housing.
Additionally, New Horizons offers street youth food, clothing, life skills, mentoring, help with homework, and case management. This is life-giving to young people on the streets, many of whom have left abusive homes and are in need of loving guidance and safe adults who will listen to their stories and care for them without judgment.
As one young person shared, “New Horizons has been a big help in changing my life. To tell my street family that I have to go home at night is bittersweet. Bitter, because they cannot come with me, but sweet, because it has been years since I had a place to call home. The staff make me feel safe and they do not judge you, just love on you like you were of their own family.”
New Horizons also runs Street Bean Coffee shop on the first floor of their building. In 2007, New Horizons’ leadership dreamed of a place where homeless and transitional youth could learn job skills in a supportive environment. This dream became a reality when Street Bean Coffee opened its doors in 2009. Youth learn more than just how to be a barista. They learn how to be good employees and coworkers, the value of great customer service, how to give and receive feedback, and they grow in leadership and self-confidence. After 3-6 months, apprentices walk out of this program knowing how to be successful in any workplace.
Additionally, Street Bean Coffee Roasters are opening a new job training program in partnership with Overlake Christian Church. Having purchased a coffee roaster, Street Bean is now selling their own special blends of coffees. Street Bean is a delightful space for business people, students, neighborhood residents and visitors to gather. Of course, when Kris, Mary and I toured the coffee shop we had to “sample” their delicious coffee! I recommend that you stop by for a great cup of coffee—and an opportunity to see BelPres mission dollars at work!
As Kris and I left New Horizons and headed home, we reflected on the gift that New Horizons and their staff are to our most precious gifts, our children. Isaiah 58:6-7 says;
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
To set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry,
And to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
When you see the naked, to clothe them,
And not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
New Horizons enables young people to find freedom from oppression and exploitation, food and shelter, clothing and acceptance, all in Jesus’ Holy Name.
Have you ever encountered a young person experiencing homelessness? What was your response? How did you feel?
What do you think of Jesus’ mandate above as it applies to young people experiencing homelessness? Have you considered how you could step in to care for young people who find themselves on the streets or in a shelter like New Horizons?