Money Can’t Fix Everything: What Homeless Street Youth Really Need is Our Time

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Submitted by Our Ark

There are an estimated three hundred or more homeless youth ages 13-25 living on the streets in Thurston County. Our Ark is a local nonprofit that engages community support to help unsheltered youth and they are asking the public for their time.

Danny Burkett, founder of Our Ark explains: “Homeless youth don’t attend school or have any adult supervision. They have very different needs than homeless adults. Most of these kids have been abused, either physically or sexually, and all have been rejected or abandoned by adults that were supposed to care for them. Not only do they need help with necessities, but they also need love and understanding, as well as consistent, non-judgmental support. Most of these young people don’t have a good education or the skills needed to succeed in work or life. Many don’t even have identification, which is crucial in our society. That’s where we all come in.”

Our Ark relies on residents of neighborhoods in and around Thurston County cities to provide food, clothing, job training and GED assistance. “Working together, we can truly make a difference in these kids’ lives. You can volunteer as little as a couple hours per month, up to four or more hours per week.

Here is a partial list of important volunteer positions that are needed right now:

  • Food Donor – Cooks healthy, homemade meals for up to fifteen people and delivers them to Outreach Teams.
  • Laundry Team Member – Takes in kids’ laundry to wash/fold and return to Outreach Teams.
  • Snack Bag Filler – Meets at the Lacey storage unit to pack snack bags for Outreach Teams.
  • On Call Volunteer – Is available to help in various areas as needed.
  • Outreach Volunteer – Meets once or twice per week in city to connect with youth and deliver food, services, and support.
  • Mentor – Provides one-on-one, long-term mentorship.
  • Host home – Provides a room in their home and loving support for a youth.
  • In-kind Donors – People and companies that donate their products, clothes, or services.
  • Additional executive and financial guidance opportunities are listed on the website.

Danny emphasizes, “Our most important need right now is for Outreach Volunteers. They are trained to understand the best ways to provide safe physical and emotional assistance to street youth. Outreach Teams deliver snack bags, food, clothing, moral support, and take the time to learn the immediate needs of each individual kid. We’re looking for consistent, warm-hearted people who can spend up to four hours per day, one or two days per week.

“March and April are Volunteer Campaign months, and we are hoping to add twenty or more volunteers to our core group in Olympia and ten or more volunteers in Yelm,” explains Burkett. “Interested people can visit Our Ark website or Facebook page. We offer bi-monthly orientations to explain our program in depth. All are invited. Oh, and by the way, money doesn’t hurt.”

Our Ark currently serves the street youth of Olympia but is expanding to Yelm and other Thurston County cities in 2022.  Visit the website to sign up for orientations.

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