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Sexually assaulted homeless youth will benefit from new Project360

Homeless youth on the Eastside who have been sexually assaulted will now be able to receive more specialized services that have not been offered before.

These services are available through Project360, a partnership among the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (KCSARC) and a number of organizations and agencies. On the Eastside, those partners include Friends of Youth (FOY) — which has offices in Redmond — the Redmond Police Department (RPD) and the Riverview School District and Learning Center.

FULFILLING A NEED

The idea for the project came when KCSARC officials realized there was nowhere this particular population could go to get help.

“There were services for homeless youth but not services for sexually assaulted youth,” said Mary Ellen Stone, executive director for KCSARC.

Olivia MacMaster, the coordinator for Project360, said the services will focus on four categories.

The first category is prevention, in which they will work to engage youth and parents to educate them on how to prevent sexual assault, MacMaster said. After that comes treatment, meaning victims will be able to get therapy if needed. Project360, which serves young people ages 13-24, will also offer intervention in the form of case management and legal advocacy. And the final category is response, which will involve multidisciplinary teams and training.

Stone said one of the reasons they started Project360 was because a high rate of homeless youth — about 40 percent — have been sexually assaulted, and in some cases, that may factor into their homelessness. The trauma caused by such incidents may also contribute to why some youths remain homeless, Stone said, because they do not want to go back home.

Now through Project360, they will be able to address issues victims have — which in the past may have gone untreated — head on, she said. As a result, young people can get the tools they need to get out of chronic homelessness.

SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIPS

Stone said Project360 came together after a successful pilot program KCSARC ran in partnership with YouthCare, a human-services organization for homeless youth in Seattle. She said they were told it would be too difficult to provide therapy for sexually assaulted homeless youth as their situations are too unstable. But Stone said they decided to try it anyway and when they were successful, they decided to expand.

Their expansion plans meant heading across Lake Washington to the Eastside, she said, and FOY was the logical choice for a partner.

The way the partnership works is that KCSARC will provide the therapist — who will be based in EvergreenHealth’s Redmond campus at 8980 161st Ave. N.E. — for the youth, while FOY will provide the case manager at its Youth Service Center at the Together Center in downtown Redmond (16225 N.E. 87th St., Suite A-1). Each of the specialists will work closely with the youth.

MacMaster said the great benefit of this partnership between the two organizations is that each one has experience in either working with sexual-assault victims or homeless youth.

“You get the best of both expertise working together,” she said.

The role RPD plays in the partnership is as a community caretaker, said Cmdr. Mark Hagreen.

He said officers will engage with homeless people — of all ages — if they need help and connect them with resources if that is what they want and need, adding that before Project360, RPD was already partnering with FOY and the Together Center in this capacity.

And while it is not illegal to be homeless, homelessness may lead to criminal behavior and Hagreen said this is another way police may come in contact with individuals.

SERVING THE COMMUNITY BETTER

Terry Pottmeyer, president and CEO of FOY, said the nonprofit’s inclusion in the Project360 partnership will make a difference in how quickly they can return homeless youth to a more stable situation.

FOY is still in the process of hiring the case manager for Project360 to work with clients who have been sexually assaulted. Pottmeyer said FOY has always supported homeless youth dealing with various issues, including sexual assault, but the new Project360 case manager will be specializing in the field.

“It’s a higher level of therapeutic support,” she said.

She added that the new Project360 case manager is among four new specialized positions to be added to the FOY Redmond office — which is open to people ages 15-22 during the day and turns into The Landing, an emergency overnight shelter for people ages 18-24, at night. The other specialized positions to be filled are a commercial sexually exploited children community advocate, a family reconciliation specialist and a new coordinator to manage the three positions. The latter will also manage FOY’s Safe Place Coordinator and its groundwork case manager.

Pottmeyer said with these more specialized positions, FOY will be able to offer more support to help young people overcome their challenges as they will be better informed and able to act more quickly.

Hagreen said when it comes to homeless youth, they are aware that many of the individuals may have troubled backgrounds. This can range from family related issues, being kicked out of the house or running away, to aging out of foster care, being victimized, mental illness or falling on hard economic times.

“It’s a social condition that we’re trying to improve,” he said about homelessness.

Hagreen added that in an effort to do this, an Eastside Homeless Committee made up of organizations and agencies from multiple Eastside cities has been formed so they can come up with a consistent approach.

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