Join The Seattle Times editorial board as it explores the challenges of youth homeless in Puget Sound and around the state.
Homelessness is front and center around the Puget Sound — with tents proliferating under freeway ramps and sleeping bags tucked in downtown doorways in the early morning. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine have declared a state of emergency on what is inarguably a homelessness crisis, increasing local spending and requiring more program accountability. Federal funding will be sought.
Perhaps less visible, but even more urgent, are the young and homeless. These are the children with no parents in sight or who are homeless with their families. Kids who run away from abuse or instability at home or from foster homes. Girls and boys on the street who are lured into the trap of pimps who exploit them.
Video: What would have helped you?
Meet six young people from The Mockingbird Society talk about their experiences being homeless and what helped them get off the streets.
ColumnsEditor's note: Embracing the state's young and homeless
Op-EdsA call to action: LGBTQ teens need shelter, wraparound services
Support for this series
Reporting for this project was made possible with financial support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private, national philanthropic organization that aims to better futures for disadvantaged children in the U.S. The work was done and directed independently of the foundation.
Reddit chatJonathan Martin and Megan Gibbard of All Home King County talked about youth homelessness during a recent "Ask Me Anything" Live chat on Reddit.
Every story is different, but any parent with teenagers knows how vulnerable they are. Their adult brains are still forming, their judgment immature, their need for stability still urgent. Without it, they are more likely to swirl down into a life of poverty, crime, drug addiction and exploitation.
Editorial writer Jonathan Martin has spent several weeks looking at this issue from all angles, traveling in-state and out to ferret out the problems and possible solutions. He’s talked to kids, parents, foster parents, social workers, state officials and lawmakers. He’s gone to court, into detention, to shelters and under the freeway.
For 20 years, Martin has covered social services on both sides of the Cascade Mountains. And as a father of two children, Martin was troubled by the vulnerability of the young and homeless.
“These kids did not win the genetic lottery of having caring, functional parents,” Martin said. “Even if they do things that piss us off as a collective society, we have an obligation to wrap our arms around them.”
Today, on the next two pages, The Seattle Times editorial board publishes the first look at this disturbing issue in what will be a series of editorials, columns and guest commentaries, including from some current or former homeless youths.
This in-depth reporting was made possible with financial support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private, national philanthropy that works to create better futures for the nation’s children by strengthening families, building economic opportunity and transforming neighborhoods. Though the financial support was key to the scope of the reporting and other resources that went into this project, the work was done and directed independently of the foundation.
Join us as we explore how our community, region and state can help these kids. More resources and shrewder investment will be part of it. More adults stepping forward to foster children — there is a serious shortage — will help too.
In the coming weeks, we will also look at the failings of the 20-year-old Becca Law — originally intended to help parents intercede when their children run away — and also the state of youth shelters and detention.
All along, we will also be inviting youths, parents, advocates, state and nonprofit officials to share their concerns and ideas for solutions.