Today is International Youth Day. Every year on August 12, the United Nations raises awareness for youth and the issues affecting them. Here in Seattle, we’d like to join them, particularly in raising awareness for our own city’s youth, and even more particularly in raising awareness for own city’s homeless youth.

The numbers are high. From this year’s One Night Count (which always yields a lower number than the reality), the city’s homeless population includes:

Ages 0–5:

Ages 6–12:

Ages 13–17:

Ages 18–25:

That’s 1,764 homeless youth who lack shelter, food, medical care, and stability. That’s 1,764 homeless youth in our very own city. In our neighborhoods. In our community.

We have a responsibility.

un_logoThe theme of this year’s Youth Day is civic engagement. The UN writes, “The engagement and participation of youth is essential to achieve sustainable human development. Yet often the opportunities for youth to engage politically, economically and socially are low or non-existent.”

We couldn’t agree more, but before youth can engage with their government or their community, they need the basics. It’s hard to follow international news when you don’t have a television or Internet access. It’s hard to volunteer at a park cleanup when you only have one set of clean clothes. It’s hard to run for student government when you’re more concerned with where you’ll sleep that night.

We have a responsibility.

Mary’s Place gives Seattle’s youth a hand up. They provide the basics, and they give children, women, and families a safe and stable place to sleep. They make the UN’s goal of youth engagement possible. For International Youth Day, think of Seattle’s homeless youth, and think of Mary’s Place.

We have a responsibility.