A safe haven in Seattle for homeless Native American youth

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by TONYA MOSLEY / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on July 17, 2010 at 5:57 PM

SEATTLE - Mayra Jacobs is excited to show us photos of herself as a teenager. These pictures are special. For Mayra they show that someone cared enough to take her picture.

"Myself and another girl were the first two residents," she said.

Mayra spent 18 months of her teenage life at the Labateyah House in Seattle. Once homeless, the experience transformed her. She's now a success story and a volunteer.

 "So I see that they're dealing with a lot of the emotional issues we dealt with when we were kids just a not knowing what the possibilities are," says Jacobs about the kids who now live here.

The house was founded in 1992 by Native American activist Bernie Whitebear. It was first a safe haven for Native American youth after Whitebear found a dispraportionate number of them were on the streets. Today it's an open house for all homeless youth ages 18 to 22. The program provides a place to stay, schooling and life skills.

"It saved my life, basically, and not like my life that I have now but like my future," says Lummi tribe member Sharayah Lane.

She's an example of the possibilities. She recently left the reservation, a difficult move few in her family have taken. "It's a big process and a lot of people aren't willing to do it because it's stepping outsid of your comfort zone."

Volunteers tell us the next big step is making the community realize that what happens here affects all of us.

"The reality is most of these young people are going to go out in the world in a couple of years," says Demetrius Morgan, a former resident here and now a volunteer. "If we don't invest in them it will come back to bite us."

In April, Labateyah received a $17,000 grant from the Seattle Neighborhood Matching Fund. The money will go towards upgrading the youth home.

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