NWYS has been making an impact on the North Sound community since 1976, but we can’t do it alone. Starting on Giving Tuesday (Nov. 28) until the end of 2023, we’ve set an ambitious goal.
We’re aiming to raise $100,000 by 2024 – the average cost to move just 10 young people off the streets and into stable, permanent housing. Want to help us get there? You can support us by making a one-time gift, becoming a Love Warrior, or donating items like clothes, household goods, and more.
Teen Court Manager
"Teen Court relies on community support and youth volunteers. We work with real, actual cases of a youth who has been charged with an assault or a burglary or harassment, even things like threatening schools. But instead of having them go through the basic regular juvenile system, they are diverted into Teen Court. We call them 'respondents' because they are responding to the charge. They say they are willing to be held accountable for what they did.
In Teen Court, we strive to apply the philosophy of restorative justice which focuses on repairing harm through accountability, healing, and community – not punishment. Restorative justice is whole person focused and sees the humanity in everyone involved.
Just this last year, we had a respondent who I believe was charged with Malicious Mischief lll. They went through Teen Court as a respondent, and successfully completed their Teen Court contract. And then this year, they showed up in Teen Court again, but this time as an advocate, and they had a totally different perspective. So, we saw someone go from being a respondent to being actively engaged in a volunteer role and advocating for their community. There's a personal connection to it that helps; for example, their teacher or me reaching out to that person saying, we really see this capacity in you. You have value outside of this thing that happened that’s not reflective of who you are."
Associate Director of Skagit Outreach Services
"We see rental units being inaccessible for anyone, but especially first-time renters, and especially folks coming out of generational poverty. We just recently assisted someone in trying to get into a new unit and their moving costs were as high as $7,000. These are things that affect adults of all ages, but for 18- to 25-year-olds, they're still learning these systems. Also, you have to have a credit score, housing history, job history, and three times the rent. And for a young person, that's impossible unless you have a cosigner who can help you build that up.
Recently we had a young person who was aging out of foster care at 18 years old, and spent their first couple of months being 18 in very unstable couch-hopping dangerous situations. And we engaged with them, got them on our waitlist, and talked to them about our moving assistance program. They then did a lot of work themselves, found a couple of other young people, and with help of our outreach worker, got approved by a landlord. The moment they were all ready, they were like, ‘Okay. We need moving assistance.’ Because of this nimble diversion funding that we have, our outreach worker was able to help them pay around $2,000 to move in. Since the young people have employment to sustain it, it's potentially going to be a cool, sustainable situation for them. So, that was just this past month!
But this quick infusion of one-time financial assistance doesn't work for all youth. The most vulnerable youth and young adults we work with often carry complex traumas, system exhaustion, racism, transphobia/homophobia, criminal records, or mental health or substance use challenges on top of navigating this inaccessible rental landscape. Having a diverse set of resources to offer allows NWYS to support young people who just need one time move in assistance while also offering wrap-around services to those who face additional barriers."
"We recently had a youth that ended up graduating from high school and college at the same time while in the PAD, and holding down a full-time and part-time job. And then went off to university. And that was just amazing to me.
There was also a youth that I had very, very long conversations with. They just had a lot of past traumas and were just feeling just very low and very hopeless. And I told them, one day, you're gonna be sitting in your own place. You're gonna look around and you're gonna know that it’s all yours. You did that that. You stuck it through, and you made it.
And then months later, they came back when they were housed. And they were like, ‘Hey, I remember what you said. I'm decorating my house and I'm safe. And it's mine.’ So for me, that was so special.”
One thing that I would really like to see [is] to ensure that our youth feel like they have a place in our community—that they are wanted here.
It’s that fear mindset; some people think that these youth are going to come in and cause problems, or they’re worried about their property, or drugs or violence or things like that. And... it's so false.
These youth are in school with your kids. They're walking down the street, they're going trick-or-treating with you. They’re just young; they want to have that experience, and they deserve to have that experience."
Whatcom Education & Employment Coordiniator
“I love working here because I'm able to position myself as a means of support in the community for young people who are facing barriers to employment and education, and craft interventions that are tailored towards the actual barriers that our youth are facing. The fact that this program has been locally funded for years now allows me to serve as many people as possible by serving people who are both actively homeless and people who are at risk of homelessness.
I think the response that I get to one of my first questions-- which is ‘What do you would you want to do?’-- really tells what I need to know to find a pathway forward. A lot of answers are, ‘I don't know what I want to do, but I want to do something meaningful, like work at Northwest Youth Services.’ It sounds like I made it up! But I swear, I get that answer so, so often.
It’s because the youth here see that employees care about them. It's us showing up every day that earns trust with youth, because we’re here day in and day out expressing interest and their ideas and their thoughts, supporting them when they're having hard days, and celebrating them when they're having good days. That relationship-building leaves them open to taking risks and asking for support. Sometimes it takes months for youth to open up and be like, ‘Hey, I was thinking about building a resume,’ or ‘I was thinking about finishing my GED.’
Everyone can, with adequate support, be a contributing member of their community. Not feeling like you're recognized and acknowledged as an individual by community members around you is damaging. We all want to be recognized as competent and contributing; we're wired, we're wired to want that, and need that.”