New Horizons serving the young and homeless

Youth homelessness impacts nearly 1,500 youth in King County every day.

Increasing at an annual rate of 20% over the past three years, homelessness is an acknowledged state of emergency in King County. Youth make up a significant portion of these numbers.  However, services available to youth are notably fewer than those available to other demographics experiencing homelessness.

“Count Us In,” King County’s one-night count of homeless and unstably housed individuals, revealed that there was somewhere around 800-850 youth on the streets in King County, with at least 200-300 of them spending each night in alleyways, under bridges, in cars, or in tents.

“The root cause of youth homelessness is family disruption. We serve young people ages 18 to 24 – folks you would expect to be at home.  But the youth we serve don’t have that option,” says Mary Steele of New Horizons.

A common misconception is that youth on the streets are rebellious, headstrong runaways. The truth is that many youths leave home as a means of survival due to physical or sexual abuse. Others are forced out because of rifts between stepparents and children or parents who suffer from substance abuse problems. Many youth age out of foster care or leave juvenile corrections with no place to go. Left with little choice, these young people leave often dangerous homes for dangerous streets and must figure out how to survive with almost no resources or relationships. Nationwide studies reveal:

  • One in three youth on the streets has been involved in foster care, sometimes living in 20+ homes by age 18.
  • Nationally, over one in four youth who “come out” to their parents as LGBTQ are thrown out of their home.
  • Surveys show that between 50-60 percent of homeless youth have been physically or sexually abused in their own home.

 Effects of Youth Homelessness

Being homeless has repercussions that can last well beyond transition into sustainability. The more time a young person spends without a stable home, the more difficult success becomes in almost every area of life, even after leaving the streets.

  • Exploitation – The streets make youth more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, increasing the risk of disease, injury, and death.
  • Arrest – Homeless youth are 2.5X more likely to be arrested as adults when compared with stably housed peers.
  • Mental Illness – Homeless youth report higher rates of mental illness symptoms, including depression, PTSD, and anxiety, resulting in increased risk for suicide attempts.

New Horizons (NH) offers programs to facilitate youth’s transition off the streets. From a hot meal and shower to case management and job training, NH meets youth where they are and reconnects them to their God-given potential and empowers them toward success.

Because youth may arrive distraught, disconnected, or disillusioned, NH seeks to be a safe place where they will be accepted for who they are. Inspired by the love of Jesus, NH offers services and love to any and every youth who comes to them in need of assistance, because each person deserves to be loved, seen, known, and respected.

What New Horizons Offers

    • Outreach – Teams of staff and volunteers set out on foot to connect with youth around the city to let them know about our services and programs.
    • Day Program – Day programs offer the opportunity to explore new interests like writing or music, as well as connect with various community partners. Breakfast served from 8:15 – 9:00am, Monday-Thursday.
    • Drop-In – These two hours (Sunday – Thursday. 7:00 – 9:00pm) give youth access to services like a meal, showers, laundry, clothing, and sign-ups for case management & shelter.
    • Emergency Shelter – Opened February 2016 in a partnership with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, 22 beds provide a safe place to rest for homeless youth five nights a week. Sunday – Thursday. 9:30pm – 7:30am.
    • The Nest – A transitional shelter providing a space for 12 youth to temporarily reside while they search for permanent housing.
    • Case Management – Case managers assist with housing placements, employment applications, government documents, and other barriers to exiting the streets.
    • Youth Employment Program – Nine-month apprenticeships providing youth a safe opportunity to earn a stipend, learn a hard skill, and develop relevant soft skills for long-term employment.
    • Street Bean – Since 2009 Street Bean Coffee Roasters has been New Horizons’ job training partner, training apprentices as baristas and teaching them the basics of roasting and coffee shop operation.

BelPres prayerfully supports the ministry of New Horizons with volunteers, funds, and advocacy.  Anyone interested in engaging with NH may contact BelPres’ Community Outreach Director, Tom Brewer

Winter Blessings at Congregations for the Homeless (CFH)

As the winter season comes to an end, I have reflected on the work we have done to address homelessness in our community and see that so much good has been accomplished this past year.  In 2016, we saw hundreds of individuals leave homelessness and enter a permanent stable housing.  Many men found meaningful jobs helping them connect to a new sense of purpose and meaning for their lives.  We witnessed broken relationships find healing, life, and love.  Men have reconnected to estranged family members, to children they have not had contact with for years, to old friends, and to themselves in new and healthy ways.

As I ponder all the successes of helping men move from life on the streets to independence over the last year, you come to mind.  The great success that Congregations for the Homeless has had would not be possible without all you do.  The partnership with your congregation enables profound transformation in the lives of the men we serve.  It is the acceptance, compassion, and love that your congregation’s volunteers bring by building authentic relationships with the men that is key in the life-changing work we do.

I am so thankful for all you do to make our community a place where everyone is welcome and valued.  I am deeply thankful for the passion and love you bring to those who are marginalized and hurting.  Thank you for being you and for your continued partnership with CFH in the life-giving work we do on the Eastside.  You are deeply valued by CFH and the men who you have profoundly impacted.  I hope you are deeply blessed in 2017.

BelPres Youth Make New Friends Among Seattle’s Homeless Adults

On a hot Saturday afternoon in June, BelPres high school youth and leaders piled into two vans and headed into downtown Seattle. Our plan was to park close to the Pioneer Square Park, where people experiencing homeless congregate. For the past year BelPres youth have been learning about homelessness in our area through serving at Mary’s Place, Congregations for the Homeless, and the Denver mission trip. On this outing, led by BelPres Interim Director for Youth Ministries, our focus was all about interacting with homeless persons, learning about their lives and praying with them. We began with a walking tour of the area, stopping by Bread of Life Mission and Compass House. Afterwards, we broke up into small groups; Daniel gave each group $20 to spend as we felt led in serving a person who was homeless.

My group consisted of four girls who are going on the Bolivia mission trip with me. We walked to the park and surveyed the area. How could we feed the maximum amount of people with our $20? We decided on pizza cut in smaller slices, but the pizza store was closed. Then we spied a Subway across the way and decided to get three foot-long subs cut in quarters – enough for 12 people. With the subs purchased, we walked over to the park.

As a leader and a mom, I was a little bit cautious about our first engagement. Closest to us were a few men on some park benches smoking weed, but I didn’t feel that was the best place for the girls to start. We noticed a couple sitting on a different bench and asked if we could sit with them. “Jenny” was hearing impaired, and her boyfriend, “Dave,” helped us all to have a conversation. Dave shared that it was Jenny’s birthday, and her eyes lit up when we offered her a sandwich. We asked about their life and what they liked about the area. Dave shared that he lived in one shelter, and she lived in another. After chatting a bit, we asked if we could pray with them. Dave’s eyes brightened and he said, “Yes! And I would like to pray for you.” We held hands and he prayed for us, thanking God for the food and for our small group’s willingness to spend time with them. We prayed for them, Jenny’s birthday celebration and thanking God for their faith and trust in Him.

As we got up to leave, we noticed a violin case next to them. Dave said he played the violin, and wanted to play a birthday song for Jenny, but a piece had broken off and he didn’t have money for glue. The girls looked at each other and said, “We can get some glue!” Two girls walked across the street to a convenience store for the glue while the rest of us stayed and continued to chat. Soon the girls returned and gave Dave the glue. He was thrilled to be able to repair his violin and play Jenny her song.

As we walked around for the next hour, passing out sandwiches and talking with men and women experiencing homelessness, our hearts were filled. We heard stories of brokenness, stories of hope, stories of lives that, from the outside, seemed lost and worthless, but on the inside were filled with faith and trust in God. We offered prayer and were prayed for. We asked for advice and were told: stay in school, trust in God, and keep on going. On a hot June day, we were refreshed by the Holy Spirit’s presence in the park.

After an hour in the park, our larger group of youth and leaders gathered at Subway for a cool drink, and debriefed our experiences. Over and over again, our young people talked about how joyful their time had been. Each small group had fed people, learned about their lives, and came away with a deeper understanding of God. Most shared that they would love to come down to the park again, to bring food, talk and pray. We had found God in the park in the lives of our homeless brothers and sisters. Tired and sweaty, we loaded into the vans with full hearts and a deeper understanding of what it means to serve the Lord in ways that are simple and impactful.

Serving our homeless brothers and sisters is not complicated. It doesn’t take a lot of money or time; it doesn’t require us to change our lives or move to an apartment downtown. Any day of the week, any of us can take a couple of hours to head downtown, grab a few sandwiches and hang out at the park. We can invite someone living on the streets to have lunch with us, and we can hear their story and pray for them. And in the end, our lives will be changed – for the better!

How have you interacted with people who are different than you? Can you imagine having lunch with a homeless person and learning about their life? What is God saying to you in this article?

Acres of Diamonds Provides Hope for Women

Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.
Homeless women are finding hope and developing critical life skills at Acres of Diamonds, an outreach ministry supported by BelPres.
While the name may puzzle you, Acres of Diamonds — or “Acres” for short — is a transitional housing organization that operates on large piece of property in Duvall. With a house and apartment complex, it can accommodate up to 16 homeless women and their children.
Acres of Diamonds takes each woman on “The Path to Graduation” which helps her rebuild a solid foundation for independent living. At Acres, each woman receives personal counseling. Staff and volunteers also provide parenting and budgeting workshops, employment coaching, tutoring and other services.
Acres is also distinctly dedicated to helping women learn to walk with God, and ensures that each woman has a home church community and attends a regular Bible study either onsite or within their community. Uplifting Kids, the children’s program for residents, also provides an introduction to Jesus and opportunities for relationships with tutors and mentors who encourage the children in life and school.
While Acres has experienced some challenges in recent years, it is now moving forward. Jen Paddock, former BelPres Community Outreach Director, became the organization’s executive director a year ago and sees God clearly at work in the life of Acres. Volunteers are vital to the operations at Acres Diamonds—working on projects, providing supplies, being a mentor, tutor or child care giver—all help the ministry expand and enrich its programs to the women and children. Jen says volunteers and community organizations have rallied around the ministry, enabling it expand and enrich its programs to both women and children. A number of area churches, notably Timberlake Church and BelPres, have come alongside Acres to provide vital support.
You and your friends can learn more about Acres of Diamonds at their spring fundraising event on March 7 at Efeste Winery. Come nibble gourmet pizza, sip a glass a wine, and hear what God is doing at Acres. Click here to sign up online!

Knitting Disneyland

By Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach

Mary McCrackenAs the new Director of Community Outreach, I have been slowly making the rounds to the various agencies and groups who partner with BelPres in our surrounding community and at the church. This past Thursday morning I decided to hang out with some of our home crowd, the ladies who make up the BelPres Fireside Knitters. As a person who loves all things yarn, I was looking forward to meeting women with a like-minded passion and to the conversation I knew would ensue.

Having just moved to the area, some of my “non-essentials” are still packed away. I woke up early to search for my knitting needles, but to no avail. Not wanting to embarrass myself by showing up empty-handed, I grabbed a crochet project I found in a drawer, stuffed it into a bag with a crochet hook I found in my pencil jar, and arrived promptly at 9 a.m.

Meeting in the library just off the church lobby, the setting is beautiful for knitting. Light pouring into the windows, comfortable couches, books lining the walls. Over the next hour, the ladies arrived, each one with their knitting projects in hand. As the newcomer, at first I introduced myself; quickly, the ladies took over and would introduce me to those who arrived next.

At one point, Jan King took me to what I now call “Knitting Disneyland,” a room filled with yarn and completed projects waiting for the proper season to be given out. Beautiful hats and gloves for school kids who live in poverty, neck and wrist warmers for the homeless, lap robes for the elderly or those who are ill. In showing me the various projects and patterns, Judy discovered a ball of yarn that would complement my crochet project and we returned to the library. The room was crowded now, with multiple conversations, laughter and the joyful feeling of community.  I searched to find a seat; two women scooted close together on the couch to make room for me. As we squished together, I felt a shifting in my spirit, comfort and peace encircling me.

I was a newbie, yet one of the group. Some of the women reminded me of my mom, who lives across the country and whom I seldom see. One woman shared that she was facing a heart-breaking decision, and we paused to pray for her. Another woman was struggling with her pattern, and two of us leaned in to see where we could help. Another woman passed around a small piece of knitting she had been working on as she learned a new type of stitch. Always, there were stories being shared and two hours quickly passed. As I left to head back upstairs to my office, the ladies warmly asked me to come back in two weeks. “Bring your projects,” they said, “or work on one of ours.” I assured them I would return.

Back at my desk, I thought about what had just transpired. Two hours of knitting! But there was more. God weaves His story through the tapestry of time. He invites us into the marvelous, beautiful, glorious work of His love for His creation, weaving our individual threads into the greater whole. The Fireside Knitters are quietly working their own threads into God’s tapestry. They take their simple yarn and work it into beautiful, practical, creative gifts for those who are in need. As they send out their gifts, they wrap others into God’s story of redemption and reconciliation. As well, they take the threads of their individual stories, weave them into each other’s lives, building community through prayer, laughter, work, and presence.

As a newcomer, I felt the gentle thread of the Fireside Knitters’ welcome and acceptance wrap around me and draw me in. In the beauty of the room, squished on the couch, listening to stories, God was inviting me to weave my thread into the tapestry of a new community. That community is busy in the missional work of valuing the lives of those who are often devalued by our society: immigrant children, the homeless, the elderly and the chronically ill. Though their work is quiet, peaceful, simple – they are kingdom power brokers.

“My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ…” (Col 2:2 NET). 


Now it’s your turn! Where have you felt God’s presence in a strong community?