Seattle's Union Gospel Mission announced the complete closure of its youth services program, so that the nonprofit can focus all of its efforts on the city's homelessness crisis.
Staff said it's an announcement they made with heavy hearts, because they know it will impact hundreds of families throughout King County.
"This was really hard," said Union Gospel Mission President Jeff Lilley. "Many people don't know the Mission runs a lot of youth programs throughout King County. But those youth programs are after school programs where kids in some of the poor communities can have a place to go in the afternoons and throughout the summer when schools are out."
The Youth Reach Out Center (YROC) in Seattle's Othello neighborhood is among the programs that will be eliminated.
Lilley said it was a difficult decision, but one the Union Gospel Mission made in response to the growing need among Seattle's homeless.
"I think we all know the numbers of homeless continue to rise, and our primary focus of the Mission for 85 years has been to reach the homeless, and specifically those in greatest need," he said. "As we leaned into it, we saw that we couldn't do everything. So that put us in a position where we had to make these really difficult choices about what are we going to put our prime energies into."
The hope is that some of the churches the Union Gospel Mission has partnered with on after school programs and summer camps will continue to do so in the future. The Mission is prepared to donate equipment and/or vans previously used by each specific school care program to assist in the transition.
In a letter to impacted families, the Mission said they realize the timing of the announcement may be tough, with the start of the school year just a few weeks away.
"The timing was something we wrestled with, because we know that the families that use these services, oftentimes it's their daycare," said Lilley. "So an after school program, it's an opportunity to send their kids somewhere where it's safe, and they're not going to get involved in other street activity."
As of now, the youth services programs are set to officially end when kids' summer camp wraps up this week.
The Union Gospel Mission said it's still working hard to find a community partner that can step in to fill the void.