Each month, Thurston Community Media (TCMedia)’s Mission Nonprofit connects with local organizations and agencies that are making positive impacts in our communities. This month, Mission Nonprofit host Robert Kam sat down with Our Ark Executive Director Danny Burkett and Vice President Kadesha Young to discuss how they help youth ages 13-25 that are experiencing homelessness in Thurston County.
Our Ark, launched in February 2021, is a community-based nonprofit with a mission of, “Breaking cycles of homelessness for street youth and young adults in communities that empowers youth independence and hope.”
They have no stipulations when it comes to the financial situation of the youth—the goal is simply to help those that do not have a stable home find a path to self-sufficiency. “Our primary goal is the success of the youth and young adults, through mentorship in life skills, job training and placement as well is confidence and esteem building.”
Our Ark has a range of programs including:
- Mentorship, where a stable, knowledgeable adult is matched with a youth to help them achieve their goals;
- Food Network, where volunteers get together to bake meals for the youth;
- Laundry of Today, where they provide supplies and money for youth to do laundry at a public facility, or volunteers wash their clothes in their homes;
- Host Homes, where families can open their home to provide a safe, stable environment to help them work towards a sustainable lifestyle; and
- Youth Street Outreach, where volunteers hit the streets to connect with youth living on them, provide support, supplies and educate them on the programs available.
Other services include help with medical, dental and mental health services, life skills education and help with obtaining state identification cards and social security cards.
Annually they have a Walk a Night in Their Shoes campaign, where Our Ark members spend the night in the environments the youth experience. The knowledge they gain helps them adjust their programs to suit, and also becomes a teaching tool—they can share their findings with other local organizations working to help these and other groups facing homelessness.
The street outreach program is where they connect with most of the youth. “We do a lot of street outreach,” says Danny. “We go multiple times a week throughout Thurston County, especially downtown Olympia, and we find these kids wherever they may be. They could be in cars, they could be just walking up and down the street, in the corners of buildings and businesses.” Having been doing this for six years, Danny says most of the kids know him by now.
It takes a village! Volunteers are an integral part of Our Ark’s work, and Danny says they are looking for people with a big heart, especially for the street outreach. “They have to have a heart with compassion and hope for our kids to be able to do this sort of work. It’s a special type of person to do street outreach.”
“They need love and support,” ” adds Kadesha. “They need outreach specialists that can meet them right where they’re at, understand what they are going through and to resonate with them. And I think that that takes the right type of person with the right type of heart and spirit to be able to do that.” If you have the empathy and drive to help these kids, Our Ark provides training to make sure you are prepared before heading to the streets.
Volunteers are also needed for mentorship, baking food and helping with Laundry of Today. Host homes are always needed as well. And of course, donations. Anyone can donate quarters for laundry, supplies, clothes and money to help get our youth off the streets.
For more information, watch the full video above and visit the Our Ark website.
You can watch Mission Nonprofit on channel 77 on Sundays at 4:30 p.m., Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. You can also watch on TCMedia.org, Video On-Demand or our Roku channel. To learn more about what TCMedia does, visit the Thuston Community Media YouTube channel or the TC Media website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.