King’s fourth-grader Riley O’Neil believes that giving is a lot better than receiving on his birthday. For the past two years, he’s asked his friends to donate money to TeenHOPE, a homeless teen shelter, instead of buying him presents.
Only this year, the Shoreline shelter closed before O’Neil’s 10th birthday celebration. He couldn’t drop off the paper-clipped bundle of checks at the shelter so he left the donation at Windermere on North 185th Street on Oct. 15.
He hopes the $250 will go toward the $80,000 that is necessary for the shelter to reopen.
“The kids (at TeenHOPE) were all real nice,” O’Neil said. “Hopefully TeenHOPE will be open next year.”
The shelter for homeless youth ages 13 to 17 closed in August unexpectedly following a shortage of financial resources. TeenHOPE board member Kelly Collins said the shelter could open again once $80,000 has been raised. The organization’s board is undergoing a discovery process to devise ways the shelter can be run more efficiently, according to Collins.
“Obviously what we’ve been doing doesn’t work because we came to this point, and we can sit here and excuse ourselves because of the economy but we can’t let it impact the shelter operation like this,” she said.
The shelter in Shoreline is the only teen shelter in South Snohomish and North King counties and began operating in 1996. Its closure in late August was unexpected, Collins said.
“It’s really kind of a thing where the community needs to be constantly aware of the shelter. It’s easy to forget we need involvement that is long term or ongoing,” she said.
Up to eight youth at one time could stay at TeenHOPE while it was operating, according to Collins. Each teen was allowed to stay for 90 days provided they followed certain rules, attended school or worked.
Since the closure, the shelter continues to receive calls from homeless teens almost every other day. Collins has met several teens waiting outside the shelter or sleeping in the building’s crawlspace. Inside, donations of clothing, beauty products, games and paper bags of nonperishable food sit unused.
The board’s main goal is clearly to find enough funds to open the doors of TeenHOPE again, Collins said.
“It would be fine if it were summer but the scary thing about this happening now is we’re coming into the winter months when we’re full,” she said.
O’Neil said he would like to visit the shelter to make another donation. His plans for celebrating his 11th birthday don’t include birthday presents.
“I’m going to keep this up,” he said.