December 18, 2011; Source: Bellingham Herald  |  After grappling with budget deficits in 2008 and 2009, the Bellingham-based nonprofit Northwest Youth Services is now in the more favorable position of planning an expansion in 2012. In a recent story, the Bellingham Herald emphasizes that the organization’s growth is not only a reflection of the ongoing need for support services for homeless adolescents in the region but also an indication that the organization’s recent efforts to restructure have been successful. 

According to the story, Northwest Youth Services is now in the process of completing renovations to a 100-year-old building, which will be the new home for the organization’s Positive Adolescent Development Project (PAD) for adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17. Designed to house both a transitional living program and an emergency shelter, with space for a total of 50, the facility will also have a “drop-in center,” where washing machines, showers, and meals will be available. Describing her vision for PAD on the organization’s website as a “safe and nurturing environment” for homeless and runaway minors, executive director Riannon Bardsley adds, “It will be a place where youth will receive the support they need through advocacy, empowerment and innovative approaches to life’s challenges.”

Beginning in 2009, and in response to a loss of about $1.7 million in funding from Washington state and other sources, Northwest Youth Services made the decision to “sharpen” its advocacy role and cut back some of its counseling and foster-care programs. The organization also suspended service at what at the time was the only emergency shelter in the county, in order to focus on diversifying its funding base. With federal support from the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act now supporting the program, Northwest Youth Services reopened the shelter last April. 

Although state funding has wavered, local support from foundations, colleges, churches, and individuals has been instrumental to the organization’s planned move. Just as St. Luke’s Foundation and the Bellingham Bay Rotary Club have provided financial support, Bellingham Technical College has provided in-kind support, and First Congregational Church has provided volunteer support. Reflecting on the extent of this local generosity, Bardsley told the Herald, “It’s pretty fantastic.”—Anne Eigeman