ROOTS young adult shelter is an overnight shelter for young adults experiencing homelessness between the ages of 18-25 years old. Young adults accessing the overnight shelter receive access to a spectrum of services, including: dinner and breakfast, case management services, hygiene facilities, laundry services, and more. The philosophy at ROOTS is to accept people as they are, showing each young individual that they are not alone, that they matter, and how they bring value to our community. When we include every young person in our community, everyone has the chance to thrive.
ROOTS is often the first place a young person finds themselves when newly experiencing homelessness; they strive to meet each individual young adult where they are at – and work alongside them. The services at ROOTS currently provide an immediate relief to the crisis of unsheltered homelessness that young adults face now. Each year, between 300-400 young adults access their overnight shelter, which provides 45 beds per evening. In addition, the young adults receive access to individualized case management and referrals that can support them in their journey towards housing stability and more.
“The real problem of homelessness is not a resource deficit, but a values deficit.”
ROOTS is uniquely positioned and sees themselves as inherently interdependent on the community of individuals and institutions that call the University District home. As a pillar of their service model, they work closely in collaboration with other community partners, including other young adult service providers, the University of Washington, and a deep network of committed volunteers. ROOTS began 21 years ago as a volunteer-led agency that still depends heavily on the compassion of volunteers in the community to provide services for young adults. The interdependence that exists between the service providers, young adults experiencing homelessness, and the volunteers that serve there, hints at the actual solution to homelessness. As Executive Director Jerred Clouse stated, “the real problem of homelessness is not a resource deficit but a values deficit”, meaning that we as a society value some lives more than others. If we truly want to address what we see as a resource deficit, we need to begin valuing people differently; and that begins with changing the hearts and minds of people. Having a model of service, as ROOTS does, that depends on the community, creates the type of reciprocal relationship that impacts everyone, from the young adult being supported, to the provider and volunteers that represent the organization.
Having operated in the basement of a church for nearly 20 years, ROOTS recently moved into an 18,000 square-foot former fraternity on Greek Row at the University of Washington. What the folks at ROOTS see as the most exciting aspect of this new space is being surrounded by young people that are in the same phase of growth and development of the young adults being supported by the organization – albeit their experiences differ widely. As Jerred reminded, “differences in experiences is what generally leads to a values deficit”, and those values deficits are what perpetuates social injustices in this country. By sharing a community with other young adults who are facing the crisis of homelessness, it creates a unique opportunity for young adults in Greek Row to be exposed to differences in life experience and a perspective that they might otherwise not view.
ROOTS is in the process of planning renovations at their new facility that will radically enhance the availability of services that they can provide for the young adults that creates a more holistic healing environment. Future renovations include: office space for other service providers, mental health therapists, onsite medical care, educational support, and more, as well as a fourth floor that serves as a longer term supportive living program. Adding additional supportive services at the ROOTS will add a more holistic, comprehensive, and healing experience where young adults will have not only their immediate needs met, but a space to build their futures.
On any given night, the goal at ROOTS is to have one volunteer or staff member present for every three guests that are served. Volunteers perform some logistical tasks to keep the shelter running smoothly, including preparing and serving food, setting up and cleaning the shelter space, and handing out supplies. However, the volunteer program’s core is building a community with guests and providing social support. Through their compassionate presence, volunteers help create a welcoming and inviting space, something that is often missing in the lives of folks experiencing homelessness. Volunteers make positive, meaningful, and long-lasting impacts in the lives of the shelter guests, while seeing firsthand the impacts of system failures that allow folks to go unhoused. It is a space where both volunteers and guests can grow as neighbors and individuals. If you are interested in volunteering at ROOTS, visit: https://rootsinfo.org/volunteernow.