Annual Christmas party renews hope for homeless youths

The University District Service Provider Collective (UDSP) is comprised of a handful of services that work with homeless youths in the University District. The collective has been through many transformations and incarnations over the last several years.

The last three years have shown a pronounced shift in the way different University District agencies and providers work together, to the benefit of both the programs and the clients.

Programs began sharing more material resources, collaborating programatically, creating more holistic action/treatment plans for clients through shared services resources and many other significant activities.

These trends led to an alliance as a logical next step toward sustaining a network of care, improving service provision across the network, providing interagency support and becoming more effective advocates for the youths and young adults the agencies serve.

UDSP now includes University Street Ministry (USM), ROOTS Young Adult Shelter, University District Youth Center (UDYC), The University Family YMCA, Sanctuary Art Center (SAC), Street Youth Ministries (SYM), 45th Street Clinic, Seattle Education Access, Seattle Youth Garden Works, YouthCare Orion Center and YWCA Working Zone.

Celebrating the holidays

As collaborations have become more commonplace over the years, a number of agencies have been able to work together to host an annual Christmas party. This party has become an important event for out-of-home youths during the winter months when life on the street can be harsh and often dangerous. A lack of family and family support often compact these hardships during the holidays.

Many of the agencies that serve homeless youths in the University District have long-standing relationships with their guests that often end up filling that familial gap.

In keeping with that special relationship, a network of agencies that are part of the UDSP Collective put together a holiday bash. Over the years the party has grown and now serves more than 100 youths and includes gifts, decorations and costumed staff.

Between November and December, UDSP collected donations with an estimated value of $20,000. These donations helped provide gifts for each of the 105 youths who attended the party and stock the various University District programs for the upcoming year.

Gifts were either specific requests from youths, or credit at the "general store," which was a room stocked with sleeping bags, back packs, phone cards and so on.

St. Andrew's Episcopal Church's food team prepared 150 meals, and the University Congregational United Church of Christ graciously hosted the party.

Each of the agencies also worked to wrap presents, make decorations or help with whatever else was needed to prepare for the event.

Due to the overwhelmingly generous donors and volunteers the 2004 University District homeless youths Christmas party was a huge success.

Sharing resources

The UDSP Collective is continually seeking to improve, expand and strengthen services in ways that are meaningful and relevant to clients. The agencies that make up UDSP are constantly learning from one another through sharing of knowledge and experience and by holding one another accountable at all times to providing the best possible services.

Over the years, this has allowed the UDSP Christmas party to be part of a continuing evolution. This evolution has, and continues, to better serve the needs of homeless youths in the University District.

For information regarding donations or volunteering, go on-line to

Robert Easley is the coordinator of homeless youths at University Family YMCA, Tele Aadsen is an outreach case manager with University Street Ministries and Laura Pritchard is program director of the ROOTS Young Adult Shelter.

Every year, guests give Christmas party staff their thanks, unable to speak directly to the many donors who make this event possible. Here are some of them.

"Thank you guys for all the time and effort you give us, not just tonight but at shelter, too."

"Thank you so so much for all your time and love. Much appreciation, R."

"Thank you very much. This year has brought me a lot of trouble, but I'm glad to see some warm-blooded folks out there. Thanks 4 the jacket, G."

"...It's much appreciated that you guys went through the trouble of setting up an event like this. With all the help and support of people like you, I know there's a sliver of hope for a lonely soul like me."

"Thanks for thinking of those who might not have the most enjoyable Christmas."[[In-content Ad]]