UW News

October 29, 1998

Making the University District safer for homeless, runaway youth is focus of November conference open to public

Registration is now open for a conference – Solving the Puzzle ’98 – designed to find solutions to the problems posed by so many homeless and street youth in Seattle’s University District.

The Nov. 5-6 conference, which is expected to attract about 200 participants, is open to all members of the community including parents, youth, residents, merchants, service providers and University of Washington students, faculty and staff. The conference is cosponsored by the U District-University Partnership for Youth and the City of Seattle’s Pro-Youth. It will be held at University Temple/United Methodist Church, 1415 NE 43rd St.

Registration is $25 for adults, $5 for students and free for homeless youth and can be made through Nancy Amidei of the UW School of Social Work at 685-3168.

The conference will include fact-finding, community-building and brainstorming solutions to key problems. On Nov. 6, participants will meet in small groups to establish basic facts and propose solutions in five service areas important to street youth – drug/alcohol treatment, mental health services, services for homeless teens who are pregnant or already are parents, housing and a pro-active legislative proposal called The Hope Act. Conference participants will be asked to develop practical ideas in each of these areas, including ways in which the university and community can work together.

Other Nov. 6 activities include a keynote address by Imani Woods, a health educator and alcoholism counselor; a presentation of poetry and other written works authored by street youth; an appearance by former Nirvana musician Krist Novoselic; and a concert by local bands. On Nov. 5 activities include a celebration of the U District-University Partnership for Youth, viewing of an exhibit of photos taken by homeless youth; and a dramatic presentation about life on the streets by Theater of Liberation.

The Partnership for Youth’s first community conference, held in 1995, achieved a number of important results including establishing a school for street youth; starting an employability project; and launching the first-in-the-nation project to provide medical care for mildly ill street youth. In addition, in-depth interviews with runaways and parents of runaways were conducted and a problem-solving process was begun in conjunction with the Seattle Police Department.

The U District-University Partnership for Youth began in late 1993 with about dozen people and today has a mailing list of 280 individuals and organizations. The partnership has an ability to bring the resources of an urban research university to bear on an issue of priority concern to its neighbors.

The precise number of youth living on University District streets isn’t known, although it and the Broadway/Capitol Hill areas have the two highest concentrations of street youth in the city. On a typical night, the U District agency TeenFeed provides meals to between 50 and 75 youths and 20 places are available in local shelters. However, an additional unknown number of youths sleep in deserted buildings or garages, doorways, under Interstate 5 or in nearby parks.

For more information, contact Amidei at (206) 685-3168 or amidei@u.washington.edu