PSKS takes a hike. Photo courtesy of PSKS

Giving Peace and Prosperity to Homeless Youth

They need our compassion now more than ever, and Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets is here to help.

Everyone in Seattle knows that we have a housing crisis. Those paying close attention will see how overburdened and underequipped the shelters are to address this crisis on their own, especially as winter rolls around. Sadly, this is nothing new, but the rising numbers of the homeless have made the various organizations providing shelter and counseling all the more indispensable.

Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets (PSKS) was founded in 1995 specifically to aid homeless youth, who are already among the most marginalized and invisible members of the homeless population. Giving visibility and shelter to homeless and at-risk youth in our city was not always a popular mission, and PSKS has often had to move thanks to disgruntled neighbors.

Despite this, PSKS has leaned into its mission and grown over the years. Overnight shelters, laundry facilities, and provisions can be life-saving, but these things alone will not cure homelessness, especially among youth who are still trying to acquire an education or job skills. Hence, PSKS also works to lower barriers to education by covering fees for GED tests and obtaining photo IDs. The organization’s RISE program, run in partnership with Seattle Education Access and Seattle Central Community College, provides alternative schooling options for participants who have not found success in traditional education settings.

Some youth need work experience that will get them into more stable employment, and PSKS provides that through the Lasting Employment Advancement Program (LEAP). The three-month paid internship allows participants to become advocates and ambassadors among PSKS, homeless youths, and the larger community. They are even tackling the empathy gap between youth and law enforcement through their conversational Donut Dialogues program.

All this may become more important in the next few years based on changes at the federal level. Housing advocates are already bracing for cuts to programs and a greater lack of empathy between government and the homeless, with Ben Carson being tapped by Donald Trump to run the department of Housing and Urban Development. Carson has claimed that poverty is a choice, as is one’s sexuality; the issues overlap in that a disproportionately high number of homeless youth identify as LGBT. Many became homeless after being kicked out of their homes for their sexuality or are fleeing violence.

Carson’s appointment does not bode well for federal programs addressing homelessness and affordability around the country. Seattle will need to be very committed, proactive, and collaborative within its own borders to tackle these issues. Organizations like PSKS are helping to define and create a structure for these ongoing conversations. More urgently, PSKS is providing vital support in the present. That’s something worth supporting year round, but especially in these colder months. n

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