L ast week, Senator Patty Murray pressured the US Department of Health and Human Services to fund a grant for YouthCare, which runs the financially beleaguered Orion Center near downtown that provides services for homeless teens. Her timing was perfect. YouthCare announced late last year that it would close its overnight shelter after losing three federal grants totaling $1 million. In response, The Stranger, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Pearl Jam recently raised $209,000 to help keep the doors open—but that still wasn't enough money.
In a letter to the health department’s director supporting one of YouthCare’s transitional living programs in Northeast Seattle, Murray commended YouthCare for providing critical services to Seattle's homeless youth and asked that their recent grant application be taken seriously, saying, "These funds will allow YouthCare to provide critical transitional housing and supportive services to homeless youth and young adults in Seattle and King County."
Murray didn't have to support YouthCare. It's not as though homeless kids are a key voting bloc or high-rolling donors. But homelessness and youth issues are pet concerns for the powerful chair of the Senate's budget committee. In November, Murray introduced a bill that would require colleges to improve outreach services for homeless students by making sure they have housing between terms and schools have staff dedicated specifically to homeless youth. She also introduced legislation to create universal access to prekindergarten with specific provisions for homeless kids.
Is Murray made of magic? Possibly. She's not suggesting we just throw money at the problem (even though money definitely helps), but the right money (federal) in the right way (full support from stem to stern).
This article has been updated since its original publication.