New Horizons is a Seattle-based organization focused on meeting the basic needs of homeless young adults ages 18-25 through food, shelter, clothing, health clinics, and social work appointments. To help their clients achieve a sustainable lifestyle, New Horizons addresses the most challenging obstacles including job and house hunting through an innovative apprenticeship program through their café, Street Bean Coffee Roasters. Clients can learn skills transferable to other careers, including barista basics, work experience, and networking. Our project is to help New Horizons find volunteers or employees for their apprenticeship program. In finding volunteers or employees for the café, we are providing professional training and networking opportunities for the apprentices so when the apprenticeship program is completed, the participants have job experience for their resume and connections to assist in their job search. In addition to recruiting staff for the café, we are also building a connection between New Horizons and Seattle Pacific University’s (SPU) volunteer groups in hopes of providing more volunteer opportunities and creating a quarterly volunteer event.
Homelessness is a local and national crisis, disproportionately affecting Black, Native American, Hispanic, and LGBTQ populations (Huffman et al., 2021). According to the National Conference of State Legislators (NSCL, 2022), an estimated 4.2 million youth and young adults experience homelessness each year. Of these, about 700,000 are unaccompanied minors, meaning they are not part of a family or accompanied by a parent or guardian. In Seattle, the homeless population has risen exponentially. According to New Horizons (2018), “The number of unstably housed persons in King County has steadily risen by roughly 20% each year for the past three years”; over 1,500 youth in King County are affected by homelessness.
The barriers the homeless youth encounter can be divided into four groups: domestic, health, bureaucratic, and social support (Huffman et al., 2021). Issues identified within these categories include maintaining personal hygiene, inability to find and receive proper medical treatment, education and employment gaps, criminal records, and limited support from potential employers. These issues are multifactorial, overlapping and intersecting on multiple planes, “mutually reinforcing the structures undergirding work and home” (Huffman et al., 2021), creating the ‘scaffolded city’ phenomenon the homeless population lives within. A survey conducted to analyze the needs insecurity among Florida college students identified extensive support programs as essential to the inclusion of students traditionally excluded by higher education via remediation, transfer, vocational training, and contract education (Nix et al., 2021). New Horizons confronts most of these challenges by providing an abundance of holistic resources for the homeless youths of Seattle.
Although there is a lot known about the social inequities that the homeless youth population face, there is not much information regarding sustainable resources to transition off the streets and become included in the socioeconomic world. A quasi-experimental longitudinal study aimed to assess the feasibility of improving socioeconomic inclusion outcomes by supporting identity capital in youths who struggled to shake the identity of homelessness (Thulien et al., 2021). Identity capital includes fostering hope, focusing on personal strengths, and improving self-esteem. Most notably, many participants expressed gratitude for the normalization of strategies and skills they learned, framing them as something one needs (Thulien et al., 2021). These findings suggest that targeting identity capital is feasible and may be a promising approach to incorporate into a more complex intervention that includes housing, education, and employment resources to help youth transition out of homelessness. New Horizons offers an apprenticeship program through Street Bean Coffee that gives a chance to gain work experience and skills, but also provides networking opportunities and higher chances of long-term employment.
Activities with Rationale
To support the community of New Horizons our group has developed flyers with QR codes and other deliverables to help find adequate staffing, volunteers, and providing supplies. The QR codes itself has direct links to their amazon wish list, donation needs, volunteer page, street bean coffee roaster barista position. With these codes people can access their website to not just look for a job position but it provides awareness to a community in need of support. We also were able to connect New Horizons with SPU’s volunteer programs Latreia an Urban Involvement. Our group provided resources and points of contact to the coordinator of these SPU volunteer programs in hopes the relationship between New Horizons and SPU would strengthen. This connection allows for there to be volunteer events to better assist and help serve the community.
We had short term goals of providing for the population of New Horizons through creation of resources so that they can utilize them to cater to their needs and New Horizons will receive student volunteers from Latreia before March 9th 2022. Our long-term goals were to have the homeless youth population located around New Horizons gain more knowledge regarding resources that are available to them, such as job opportunities via Street Bean Coffee Roasters within 3 months and have New Horizons obtain a consistent flow of volunteers and resources via collaboration with SPU's Urban Involvement, quarterly. These short term goals were both met while the long term goals are still in progress.
The utilization of mixed methods, both qualitative and quantitative data, proves to help evaluate the success of our interventions more efficiently (Abilgaard et al., 2016). The qualitative data analyzed was whether the barista position was filled and whether SPU’s volunteer programs formed a connection with New Horizons. After the initiation of our interventions, there was the removal of the job application on New Horizons website, the barista position filled, and Latreia partnering with New Horizons where a group of SPU volunteers painting their garage to be used as a blank canvas for young adults to do graffiti artwork. These outcomes display evidence of an effective relationship between SPU’s volunteering programs and New Horizons and our goals being met. The quantitative data analyzed was the number of people that attended the Latreia event and how many people scanned the flyer QR codes. Ten volunteers attended the event compared to their average range of 10-15 people that regularly attend their events. Data collected from the QR code tracking website suggested that 34 people scanned the QR code for the barista position, 28 people scanned the QR code for New Horizon’s Amazon wish list, and 27 people scanned the QR code for the volunteering page. These evaluations proved that the SPU community interacted with the flyers and were successful in bringing attention to New Horizons’ needs.
To help New Horizons and the community they serve we were able to help them form long term relationships that will continue on when we leave. By creating this relationship with SPU volunteer programs and access to a new barista, New Horizons can better serve the population of homeless youth through job training and acts of service. With the aid of our interventions bringing awareness to New Horizons by various means, we were able to engage with their culture to help change their world.
Limitations of Research
There are limitations to our project and research. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a limited amount of recent national and local research and statistics available to analyze and collect around homelessness (NSCL, 2022). Due to social distancing and isolation precautions, surveys and data collection cannot be completed or are very limited (NSCL, 2022). The small sample size or cross-sectional instead of longitudinal methods can limit a study. Diversity in age groups and selected sample size may not represent the total population (Thulien et al., 2021). Different geographic locations or urban vs rural areas may affect the availability of resources, programs, or tactics utilized based on the prevalence of the homeless population. In Nix et al. (2021), the inadequacy of faculty and staff training was evident in varied faculty and staff awareness of basic need opportunities. For future interview-based studies such as Huffman et al. (2021), training young adults who have experience being homeless to conduct the interviews may mediate socioeconomic differences between interviewers and interviewees, allowing for more fully open reflection, trust, and nuanced interpretation. Shared experiences between the interviewers and interviewees may also demonstrate effectiveness of apprenticeship programs for homeless youths while providing a supportive role model who has transitioned from their homeless identity into a successfully employed individual with professional networking connections.
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New Horizons. (2018). About: Youth homelessness. New Horizons. https://nhmin.org/youth-homelessness-seattle/
Nix, A., Bertrand Jones, T., Daniels, H., Hu, P., & Hu, S. (2021). “There’s so much that we’re doing”: How Florida college system institutions address basic needs insecurity among students. Community College Review, 1, 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1177/00915521211047674
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