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Continuing 'Life Dreams'

Kraken, YouthCare, other nonprofits team up to end youth homelessness, create brighter futures for Black, Indigenous and People of Color young people

by Erica Ayala / @elindsay08 / NHL.com/Kraken

Kraken, YouthCare Community Focus

Kraken, YouthCare share Kraken community initiatives

VP of Community Engagement Mari Horita and CEO and President of YouthCare Melinda Giovengo discuss Seattle's community initiatives and impact

  • 09:49 •

When the Seattle Kraken announced the team name July 23, they promoted a commemorative line of "Release the Kraken" gear that fans were quick to purchase online at ReleasetheKrakenStore.com. 

Importantly, the Kraken committed all net proceeds from the first 30 days of sales to local nonprofit YouthCare to end youth homelessness, along with nonprofits Community Passageways and the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle serving the underserved Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the Greater Seattle region.

The Kraken-YouthCare connection is part of a ten-year, $10 million partnership in which the new NHL team provides cash and in-kind donations to the organization. YouthCare provides such practical needs as meals and shelter along with ongoing efforts to empower, educate and valuing youth. Buying a shirt or hat at ReleasetheKrakenstore.com will directly result in empowering Seattle-area homeless 12- to 24-year-olds with educational opportunity, career skills and an end goal of employment and security. The net proceeds commitment is for the first 30 days of sale or through Aug. 21.

During the June 23 announcement of "Kraken," the team staged a five-plus hour livestream to celebrate and amplify the name decision. Melinda Giovengo, president and CEO of YouthCare, joined host Ross Fletcher and Kraken vice president Mari Horita to discuss the Seattle Kraken and Climate Pledge Arena's commitment to community advocacy and outreach. 

"YouthCare was part of our organization before our organization existed because Melinda met Tim [Leiweke, CEO of Oak View Group, builder of Climate Pledge Arena and a major figure in bringing the Kraken to Seattle]," said Mari Horita, vice president of community engagement and social impact for the Kraken. "Melinda told Tim what YouthCare is about, that the organization lifts up young people [12 to 24 years old] who are homeless to see a brighter future. YouthCare gives these young people of sense of being seen."

YouthCare has positively impacted Pacific Northwest youth for more than 40 years. It serves approximately 1,500 people a year with services ranging from locating youth sleeping on the streets to providing meals and job readiness training. Giovengo said YouthCare is focused on the young people's "continuation of their life dreams." 

"If a young person walks away from us and never looks back, has a job and an education, that's what we want to see," said YouthCare president and CEO Melinda Giovengo. "Being part of this partnership with the Seattle Kraken gives our people the opportunity to be at the forefront ow what is the biggest development in the community for a long time.

"It's great to have financial support for the next 10 years, but most important is we will be part of this community effort and our young people jobs and learn skills."

YouthCare embraces youth of color and youth that identify as LGBTQ+ (kicked out for coming out," says Giovengo. whose families are kicked out for coming out, as well as youth who are kicked out of their home past a certain age because their families can no longer afford to care for them. Since the pandemic, the organization has opened three 24-7 shelters in addition to its two dozen shelters throughout the city. 

"It's been very, very challenging," said Giovengo, "YouthCare has had to redesign all of its engagement services or entry-level services with other organizations to create a 24-hour response system so young people can get up in the morning and have a place to be all day with three meals a day, continue their education and continue their employment options."

All 24 locations now have some type of 24-7 emergency response, whether that be safe entertainment, access to food pantries or other necessities for the community, but especially those most vulnerable to homelessness. 

"Youth homelessness is not always the most visible type of homelessness and so it's not necessarily top of mind when we think about the regional homelessness crisis," said Horita. "And yet in Washington State alone in 2018, over 40,000 K-to-12 public school kids experienced homelessness or housing insecurity. It became worse with the conditions created by COVID-19."

Giovengo emphasized ending homelessness in our community for young people is so much more than just a house and food: "Ending homelessness is about the kind of partnerships that we're forming with the Kraken in terms of helping young people move forward with their future." 

The long-term partnership with Seattle Kraken not only allows YouthCare to provide its normal services and additional support needed during the pandemic but also will initiate an integral civic engagement component. 

"This partnership is going on to allow us to build a state-of-the-art training facility and training pathway for each of these young people to move forward with their lives," said Giovengo. "That's what's most exciting about this organization and this partnership." 

One of the visions of the Kraken franchise is to create a more equitable future in which all community members can realize their full potential. The recent cries for social justice in wake of the death of George Floyd are not isolated, said Marita. 

"We acknowledge that BIPOC youth and communities have suffered discrimination for a very long time," she said. "We're in a moment in time when we can really lean into matters and utilize our platform and our resources, because the world's listening. We have both the opportunity and the obligation to partner with organizations like The Urban League in Metropolitan Seattle and Community Passageways that do really important work in BIPOC communities." 

You can watch the full interview with Horita and Giovengo here  

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