One day, shortly after I had begun working in downtown Seattle, I was taking a walk at lunch to run some errands. It was a beautiful day, the breeze was mild, and the sky was clear and amazingly blue. I picked up my pace on 7th Avenue in order to get to my next errand, and to my left stood a group of rather raggedy looking teenagers, some with piercings, one with a dog, and all with backpacks. As I approached, one looked at me at asked, “Ma’am, do you have any spare change?”
I had been asked for money many times before by adults downtown and I wanted to help, but I didn’t want to give them money. After all, what would they do with it? Buy drugs or a bottle of vodka? I have to be honest, though, I was more than a little put off by the kids– after all, they were young, looked able-bodied, it was a nice day— why weren’t they looking for work? When my kids were that age, they were working, not hanging out on a corner in downtown Seattle. I hardly looked at them as I passed, and just shook my head.
That was three years ago. Since that day, I learned something about those kids on the corner of 7th and Pike. I learned that what they were doing is called spare-changing, or “spanging” as they call it. Often this spanging affords them housing for a night, a meal, some food for their dog or cat, or sometimes other things, maybe not great things. I also learned that these kids live on the streets, spending rainy, impossible nights under bridges and in condemned buildings. I learned these kids often came from homes where they were abused or neglected, and that the street feels safer. Most are not prepared for what street life is. Many are amazingly resilient and have learned what it takes to get what they need to go one more day. Some want to go to college. Some want jobs but have no address, phone, clean clothes, or anything you’d need to get a job. And all are really still just kids.
It was StandUp For Kids who enlightened me. StandUp For Kids is a national organization with a Seattle chapter, dedicated to find kids on the street to support and guide them toward a better life. I’m now a Street Outreach Counselor and Director of Marketing for StandUp For Kids – Seattle. I spend time on the streets each week talking to homeless and street youth, to hear their stories, wisdom and challenges, as well as offer what I can to help them find a path to a saner and safer reality. It’s really only what every kid deserves.
I’d like to invite you to help us support these forgotten kids in Seattle. StandUp For Kids – Seattle is holding a fundraiser to provide additional resources for our outreach efforts. Here’s the scoop:
StandUp For Kids – Seattle “Charity Chowdown!”
Wednesday, July 14 from 5pm to 1am
Sponsored by McMenamins Pub in Queen Anne - 200 Roy Street, Seattle 206-285-4722
PJ Kendall, Head Manager of McMenamins, states why they are involved with this fundraiser, “McMenamins wanted to sponsor this event for StandUp For Kids – Seattle because we feel it is important to support the local organizations who help better the community.”
McMenamins will be donating 50% of all proceeds from food and beverages purchased during the event to StandUp For Kids – Seattle.
For more information about the event or StandUp For Kids, please email us at email@example.com, or visit our website at www.standupforkids.org/seattle.
Bring your friends, family, and co-workers to enjoy a meal, enter our “Fun in Seattle” raffles, and maybe even win a chance to spin the Chowdown Prize Wheel. We’d love to see you there!