Redmond's Friends of Youth provides help for the homeless

Case Manager Lindsey Butler, of Friends of Youth — Eastside Outreach, serves pizza during a recent  Teen Feed at the Kirkland Teen Union Building. - Katherine Ganter/Reporter Newspapers
Case Manager Lindsey Butler, of Friends of Youth — Eastside Outreach, serves pizza during a recent Teen Feed at the Kirkland Teen Union Building.
— image credit: Katherine Ganter/Reporter Newspapers

Friends of Youth lends a hand to kids in need

With resources such as great city parks, the Old Fire House Teen Center and the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center, it’s not surprising that Redmond’s been named one of the nation’s 100 best communities for youth, by the America’s Promise Alliance, two years in a row.

Yet life isn’t rosy for all children and teens here in Redmond and neighboring communities such as Kirkland and Bellevue. According to staff at the Redmond-based service agency Friends of Youth, there are up to 2,000 homeless youth on the Eastside on any given night. It’s hard to fathom since these kids are mostly in hiding.

“In downtown Seattle, the homeless are ‘in your face.’ Here, we see a lot of what we call ‘couch surfing,’” said Kelly Duncan, marketing and communications manager for Friends of Youth. “Kids go from one friend’s house to another, until they wear out their welcome. Then they may be sleeping on a park bench.”

Friends of Youth has a outreach staff which drives around and looks for kids in crisis. Counselors distribute basic hygiene supplies and encourage young people to take advantage of their services including temporary shelters, long-term housing assistance, substance abuse treatment programs, therapeutic foster care and parent education for teen mothers.

There are many reasons why children and teens end up on the streets, even in “nice” neighborhoods.

“There’s often physical or emotional abuse in the home or a parent struggling with drug or alcohol addiction,” said Duncan. “Sometimes kids don’t leave willingly but are kicked out because of bad grades or because they don’t have a job.”

The emotional fall-out makes it hard for these kids to trust any adults. They may feel they’re better off trying to go it alone.

But Friends of Youth was founded on the principle that every young person has the potential to succeed. Caring staff members and a wide range of compassionate volunteers can and do help thousands of young people overcome challenges and become healthy and productive members of society.

How can you help?

• Attend or volunteer to work at Friends of Youth’s Tee Off Fore Kids 2008 golf tournament, Monday, Aug. 11 at Bear Creek Country Club in Woodinville. Tournament registration includes a round of golf, lunch and a dinner auction. Details and an online registration form are at

• Corporate groups of volunteers are invited to help with upkeep of youth homes, such as painting and landscaping.

• The Healthy Start program needs English and Spanish speaking volunteers to visit young families once a week (with a one-year commitment) and provide parenting support. Training is provided.

• The Neighborhood Schoolhouse, an after-school program with recreational activities and homework help for kids, is housed at Redmond Elementary School. High school students and adults can help with supervision and tutoring.

• Groups and individuals can provide breakfasts or dinners for at-risk and homeless youth at Friends of Youth service centers such as the Kirkland Teen Union Building or The Landing at the YMCA in Bellevue. Volunteers are also needed to help with intake (paperwork) so that hungry kids can be served faster.

• Warm wool or polypropylene socks are being collected for distribution to homeless youth, especially as the weather turns cold and wet again.

• New or gently-used school clothes or gift cards for stores such as Target or Fred Meyer are being collected, as well as backpacks and school supplies.

• Individuals or groups can also sign up to sponsor holiday giving trees, Thanksgiving gift basket donations or outings to movies, amusement parks, etc. for disadvantaged youth.

Depending on the volunteer position, age requirements vary, but there are opportunities for Scout troops, National Honor Society members or other students who need community service hours to help less fortunate peers through Friends of Youth, said Cheryl Schnelle, volunteer coordinator. Contact Schnelle for more information.

The Friends of Youth office is located at Redmond’s Family Resource Center, 16225 NE 87th St., Suite A-6; (425) 869-6490.

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