By Mary Steele, Director: New Horizons Ministries
Samia was 16 when she left her abusive home. By 17, she was pregnant and sleeping under a bridge. That’s when she turned to New Horizons. In our Drop In Center, she found food, clothing, showers, and help with housing and medical care. But more than that, she found the support she needed to leave the streets for good.
As Samia says, “I’d never had an adult who believed in me before – who said ‘you can do this.’” That’s the core of our mission at New Horizons. We see Jesus in each youth who comes through our doors. We provide practical help to meet each young person’s needs, but also the emotional and spiritual support that are the keys to encouraging youth as they grow toward independence.
Today, Samia is attending school and working while she raises her young daughter. And New Horizons is growing so that we can help more youth like Samia in deeper ways.
When Samia first came to us four years ago, we had no housing at New Horizons and had to work hard to find Samia a place to stay off the streets. Now, we have 32 beds available for homeless youth. In July last year, we opened a 12-bed transitional shelter called the Nest where participants have a guaranteed bed in a dorm-like space while they work on finding permanent housing. Today, the Nest is full every night and more than half of the participants have jobs. The program graduates its residents into permanent housing at a rate more than double that of any other young adult shelter in King County.
The Nest has been such a success that we knew we needed to do more. So in February 2016, we launched a new Young Adult Emergency Shelter in partnership with Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. We started with 18 new beds, but soon moved to 20 so that we could meet the demand for shelter beds. At the same time, we expanded both our evening drop in and breakfast services from four days to five. Visits to our drop in services have doubled to more than 1600 per month since we made these changes.
In addition to housing, young people need jobs to be successful in leaving the streets. Samia found a job at Starbucks when she was ready to work and was proud to bring leftover pastries back to New Horizons to share with other youth. Since 2009, New Horizons has operated a coffee shop called Street Bean to help homeless young people gain job skills. Our six-month apprenticeship program graduates more than 80% of its participants into independent living. Last year, all of our Street Bean apprentices had housing at graduation and most also had jobs.
We’re expanding this program to help more youth leave the streets. We’ve been roasting coffee since last year and will soon launch a wholesale operation with our own large commercial roaster located at Overlake Christian Church. We’re also opening a second Street Bean location at 50th and Roosevelt in Seattle’s University District. This second shop is a partnership with the University District Food Bank. Expanding Street Bean will allow us to more than double the number of apprentices we can train every year.
But no matter how much we expand, we know that our program only works because it is grounded in relationship – God’s relationship with us, our relationships with the young people we serve, and the community of hope that surrounds us. Thanks to this community at Bethany for a partnership grounded in compassion and faith.