The Garage, A Teen Cafe hosts open house to support unhoused Issaquah youth

Community members are invited to attend the event on September 21 from 6-7 p.m.

The Garage, A Teen Cafe, which is a non-profit that operates as a drop-in space exclusively for high school teenagers, will be hosting an open house to discuss a potential Host Homes project which would serve unhoused Issaquah youth.

The open house will take place on September 21 from 6-7 p.m. at The Garage, located at 235 1st Avenue Southeast. The Host Homes project, as well as the teen drop-in center, Blackthorn Haven, would serve unhoused Issaquah youth ages 12-18, or youth who are at risk of becoming unhoused.

“Our goal is to keep Issaquah youth in their community, where they have a much better chance of stabilizing, continuing positive connections, staying in school and, ultimately, finding permanent housing,” said KayLee Jaech, executive director of The Garage.

Blackthorn Haven is a program of The Garage, and provides immediate support and services to youth. According to the nonprofit, there are no agencies in Issaquah that directly serve teenagers experiencing homelessness, and due to a lack of services in the city, youth seeking housing are forced to leave community connections to travel to Kirkland, Bothell, Everett or Auburn. As a result, this creates disconnects from family and community members.

Teens requiring immediate assistance can access services at the Blackthorn drop-in center, which offers food, clothing, showers, phones, storage for belongings, washing machines and dryers, desks, supplies for completing homework, and recreation with peers.

Full time counselors and full time caseworkers will be available to assess the needs of students in order to locate housing and resources for the teens, and possibly their families.

Since The Garage is a teen-focused space, teenagers were involved in the formation of Blackthorn. With assistance from Friends of Youth, the Issaquah School District’s Student Equity Council conducted a survey of youth who are experiencing homelessness, or who had recently experienced homelessness. According to the Issaquah School District’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) report card, about 100 youth in the Issaquah School District experience homelessness each year, with predictions of the actual number of unhoused youth being significantly greater.

“Our community is so generous and supportive of youth. For years, the youth homeless population has increased,” said Jaech.

The results of the survey impacted Blackthorn’s choice to host a drop-in center for immediate assistance, as well as pursuing the Host Homes program for longer term housing solutions.

Host Homes is a volunteer network of local families who are willing to open homes to unhoused teens, with the program being authorized under Washington state law. Host Homes volunteers undergo rigorous background checks, interviews and training. Blackthorn provides the background checks, training, pro bono legal advice, as well as program oversight and support for local home participants.

The open house event will be an opportunity for families who wish to learn more about opening up their homes to teenagers for either short-term or long-term stays. The event will also allow conversations to flow between attendees and Host Homes sponsors from other communities, as well as adults who have participated as youths in Host Homes programs.

“Now is the time to address the need for services here in Issaquah, and we believe Host Homes are the right solution for our young people and our community,” said Jaech. “I invite everyone who wants to be a part of making a huge difference in a young person’s life to attend our open house.”