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Long-awaited Coffee Oasis opens in Poulsbo
POULSBO — Dave Frederick was echoed by many at the opening of Poulsbo’s Coffee Oasis teen center on Saturday when he called the day “bittersweet.”
The opening of the center for local homeless and at-risk youth came one day after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 27 people lost their lives. Perhaps Ryan Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter, could have been reached by a Coffee Oasis-type organization. “That life could have been saved, and a lot of other lives could have been saved,” Frederick said. “That’s why we exist.”
Coffee Oasis opened its third teen center in Kitsap County at 780 NE Iverson St., at the corner of 8th Avenue, offering a safe haven, job training, school help, mentoring, and a place just to be heard for teens with nowhere else to go.
Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson spoke to the crowd, which filled the coffee shop and recreation room to the brim. When Erickson became mayor in 2010, she still thought of Poulsbo as a "sleepy town," she said.
"I didn't think we had this kind of problem, but we did," she said of teen homelessness.
Erickson found out about Coffee Oasis in 2010, when it had opened its second location in Port Orchard. Frederick and Erickson agreed it would take a year to organize an effort to build a Poulsbo location, not including looking for funding.
When Erickson mentioned her desire to help homeless youth to Meredith Green, a member of Rotary Club of Poulsbo-North Kitsap, the pieces began to fall together, Erickson said.
Rotary raised nearly $20,000 at an auction in 2011, donating all the proceeds to the effort to build a Coffee Oasis in Poulsbo.
“This has been an incredible journey for me,” Green said, now president of Rotary. She met many Coffee Oasis youth who worked on the Poulsbo project, finding out later that they had had brushes with the law.
She called them “delightful.”
"That's what Coffee Oasis does," she said — recovers street and at-risk youth and helps them become productive citizens.
One of those former Coffee Oasis teens is now an outreach coordinator for the organization.
Coffee Oasis found Jason Tompkins at age 13, when a Bremerton police officer brought him there instead of jail. Coffee Oasis surrounded Tompkins with support and helped him build skills to succeed after school — job training, how to find housing — and gave his life structure and helped him develop moral standards, he said.
Tompkins has been reaching out to youth in North Kitsap for the last few months. His goal is to let every youth in North Kitsap know about Coffee Oasis' resources, even if they never become homeless, he said.
He said North Kitsap is "100 percent different from Bremerton." Bremerton is grungy, but with the north end being more rural, youth "hide it a lot more, or [hide it] better."
"I don't want to change them, but I want to let them know there's something different," Tompkins said. "They're subconsciously raising themselves."
Outreach director Daniel Frederick said the kids they're meeting on the streets are getting younger. Homelessness is becoming generational; some street kids are having their own kids and raising them on the streets, he said.
"We want to put our foot in that and stop it," Daniel said.
Daniel is the son of Coffee Oasis founder Dave Frederick, and Daniel was 11 when the organization was first founded, a shock to his formerly "comfortable" home life.
He went from being “cloistered” to “most of the kids I knew were a little rough around the edges," Daniel said.
Daniel planned to earn his master's degree in Colorado and teach, but four years ago he felt the calling to come back and help with the Coffee Oasis mission, as a "healing community," he said.
He has four outreach coordinators serving seven schools. Many of the staff, like Tompkins, can relate to the youth, having had their own struggles or street experience. Daniel said that helps them establish trust. The first step is to build trust in a Coffee Oasis location; the second is to provide mentorship — Daniel said one of their focuses this year is family reconciliation — and the third step is Hope Inc., providing job training and internships.
Dave Frederick said the coffee shop business model has been successful — not only does the shop provide a job training venue for the youth, the business supports 50 percent of the organization’s efforts. He said 25 percent comes from grants, and the remaining 25 percent comes from donations.
"[Coffee Oasis] needs our help and support, it needs our business," Green said. The center also accepts donations of food, and volunteers to mentor and talk with the youth.
One Coffee Oasis barista, Christine Walker, works in Bremerton but was on-hand at the Poulsbo opening. She also volunteers her time to talk with the kids that come in.
"It's enriching for me," she said.
Many that spoke, in front at the ribbon cutting or in individual conversations, said the support the Poulsbo community has given was almost "overwhelming."
"The goal is for the community to take ownership," Daniel Frederick said. "We want the community to say, 'This is us.'"
Coffee Oasis coffee shop is open 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. More information at www.thecoffeeoasis.com.