“25 years ago this spring I checked into the Men’s Shelter in Spokane, Washington, as a homeless meth addict. All that journey started when I was about 8 years old – that led to drugs, that led to more severe things in my life. So it’s such an honor to be back in this city working with kids who are headed in the same direction.” – Ryan Brown, Youth Outreach director
UGM Youth Outreach partners with local schools, churches, colleges and universities, and community groups to reach children and young adults with the love of Jesus Christ.
Reaching children is key to breaking the generational cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction that feed homelessness. Being raised in unstable or broken homes is a common denominator among the vast majority of adults who end up in UGM shelters. And in Spokane County alone, a recent study found, 3,000 children in grades K-12 are homeless.
UGM Camp is a 125-acre camp along the Spokane River just a one-hour drive away from the city. Every summer, about 500 kids from low-income neighborhoods come to spend a week at camp under the direction of a team of volunteers from a church in their neighborhood. Thanks to the generous groups and individuals who provide camp sponsorships, it doesn’t cost their families a penny.
“It is really fun and it’s free and we get to learn about God. And it’s a good place to be when you need a break from your house. And the counselors are awesome.” – Note from a camper
The children at the Crisis Shelter for Women and Children have all experienced the trauma of homelessness, and many have also seen or experienced abuse, hunger and neglect. They crave healthy interaction with adults. At Homework Club, volunteer college students provide the attention and support the children need to succeed in school and in life.
UGM volunteers work with children after school four days a week at Stevens Elementary School, where 85% of children qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Activities are geared toward helping the children grow educationally, emotionally and spiritually.
“But for the grace of God, it could be me or one of my children locked up in there. I am more convinced than I ever have been, that the only hope for these kids, and the only hope for this world is Jesus Christ.” – Jerry McGlade, Juvenile Detention volunteer
“I love ministering to kids because they have their whole lives ahead of them and if we get them now, where they are, we’re going to see some awesome things happen through them. I don’t want their potential to be wasted; I want them to know they are valued and God sees them as worth it.” – Adam, Student Impact Team
Maintaining clothing closets at high schools in low-income neighborhoods creates opportunity to encourage students by providing for their practical needs. Being able to dress appropriately is one step toward being able to set goals for their future.
“If you feel dirty and you look in disarray, you’re not going to want to push yourself, versus if you’re wearing something nice and you feel confident in, you’re going to be more willing to pursue higher goals.” – Christa, Student Impact Team, helps run the clothing closet at Rogers High School
“Right there is the picture of hope. Because right there is a picture of young leaders transforming this world.” – Ryan Brown, Youth Outreach director
Started in 2015, the Student Impact Team consists of college students from Moody Bible Institute, Whitworth University, Spokane Community Colleges, Gonzaga University and Eastern Washington University. These young adults bring lots of energy, enthusiasm, sincerity and readiness to serve. Members of the team serve at camp, Homework Club, Young Club, high school clothing closets and mentoring, Juvenile Detention Ministry and the Student Impact Center.
Several Student Impact Team members live at the Student Impact Center and complete 8-10 hours a week in hands-on ministry training. They staff the drop-in center for teenagers and also serve in many other areas of UGM ministries.