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Teen center could help break cycle of homelessness | In Our Opinion
The hallmark of any community is what its residents do to improve the local quality of life.
One of Poulsbo’s distinguishing characteristics is the safety net of services the community provides to help its residents when times are tough, among them are North Kitsap Fishline, St. Vincent de Paul, housing assistance through Kitsap Community Resources, community meals at churches, and the North Kitsap Bellringer Fund.
A homeless teen center in Poulsbo follows that same track. The Poulsbo/North Kitsap Rotary Club and Coffee Oasis have taken the lead on this issue.
The center, an extension of the services provided by Coffee Oasis in Bremerton, would connect homeless teens with services that could help them escape homelessness. That’s good for them, and it’s good for the community.
The teen homeless population is largely unseen, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. In Kitsap County, some 313 students ages 13-17 identified themselves as homeless to their schools in a recent survey. (All told, in June, there were 2,130 homeless people, 639 of them children, according to Terry Schroeder, coordinator of the Kitsap Continuum of Care Coalition.)
Like Coffee Oasis in Bremerton, a homeless teen center in Poulsbo could connect teens that can help them attain a new level of self-sufficiency: health care, housing, host families, job training and job-search assistance, mentoring, and volunteer opportunities.
According to anecdotal information, a number of teenagers “couch surf” or, when the weather is not inclement, live in our forests. Numerous organizations make clothing and food available, and those efforts are important. As a community, we need to step up the effort and address the long-term issue of helping teens break out of homelessness so they can live productive lives in a healthy and safe place.
We can’t think of any other priority more deserving of the community’s attention than the issue of children living on the street. We support the establishment of a center for homeless teens in Poulsbo.