November 28, 2017

Faculty and students from the School of Social Work, along with colleagues at the schools of Nursing and Law, have teamed up with YouthCare to launch The Doorway Project. The goal is to establish a neighborhood hub and navigation center specifically for young people experiencing homelessness in the University District.

On Dec. 3 from noon to 4 p.m., a pop-up café event will be staged in the parking lot of the University Heights Community Center. Included will be pay-as-you-can food trucks, live music, social service agency representatives and access to indoor restrooms and a warming space. It is the first of four such events which organizers hope will lead to a permanent site next year.

The concept of a neighborhood café is meant to both reach out and draw in, according to Charlotte Sanders, teaching associate at the School and a leader of The Doorway Project. “The whole idea of being homeless is very labeling on a young person,” said Sanders. “If a person is homeless, on the brink of being homeless or simply presents a need, we’d be able to respond to those needs in some way. At the same time, maybe there are other people from the neighborhood who could come in and see the needs and want to help.”

Homelessness in Seattle is on the rise. This past January, the annual Count Us In survey recorded more than 11,000 homeless people in King County, about 10 percent more than the previous year. Of that number, nearly 1,500 individuals were between the ages of 18 and 24.

The DoorWay Project emerged from a 2016 faculty summit led by Urban@UW, an interdisciplinary effort to tackle city issues through research, teaching and community collaboration. Following that summit, the group embarked on a three-pronged initiative to tackle homelessness: to develop a multidisciplinary social change curriculum; to identify and serve housing- and food-insecure UW students; and to establish a safe community hub for social services.

To support this work, the University received a two-year grant from the state totaling $1 million. The first half will be split between the University and YouthCare to launch The Doorway Project.