Time is ticking away and Ryan’s House for Youth is not giving up hope in its effort to raise the final $200,000 towards the purchase price of the former Countryside Inn, south of Coupeville.
The nonprofit, currently based in Freeland, began raising funds early this year to establish the island’s first temporary living facility for unaccompanied homeless youths when the former inn fell into foreclosure.
As reported in the South Whidbey Record Jan. 23, Executive Director Lori Cavender and fellow Ryan’s House staff thought the space appeared ideal to meet the needs of the organization and the young people they serve.
Though Ryan’s House also operates a host family program, the list of unaccompanied youths awaiting host home placement is lengthy.
In addition, some youths are not eligible for host family placement due to factors such as severe mental illness.
The agency’s current headquarters, a small office space in Freeland, are also not quite large enough to accommodate the number of youths the organization serves, and the various services they aim to provide. Cavender said between 15 and 20 young people visit Ryan’s House for Youth every day. In 2015, Whidbey school district specialists who work with homeless families and youths had identified 104 unaccompanied homeless youths.
Originally the inn’s seller, SaviBank, had set a deadline of Feb. 29 for the organization to raise enough funds for the purchase price of $525,000, though the bank granted a 30-day extension, making the new deadline March 30.
The bank also donated $75,000.
As of Feb. 25, Ryan’s House had raised a total of approximately $325,000, $80,000 of which was raised over the past four days.
Cavender noted that they have received a number of small donations from donors who contributed as much as they were able, in the form of $100, $50, $25 and $10 checks.
In an email, Cavender noted that though $200,000 may seem a daunting amount to raise in such a small amount of time, it could be less so if the community as a whole contributes.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, and for homeless youth(s), they are in need of this village more than those who have homes to go to at night,” she wrote. “It is our duty as community members to lift these often forgotten youth(s) and give them hope for the future.”
Cavender later added that, initially, prospective donors were apprehensive because they did not believe it could be done. Now that the goal seems more attainable, she said, more contributions are coming in daily.
Cavender said she is fairly confident they will be able to raise enough to fund the initial purchase price, but will continue fundraising efforts even if so, in order to decrease or eliminate the need for funds to pay a mortgage.
Should Ryan’s House obtain the inn, Cavender and her colleagues have several ideas in the works for continual fundraising means, such as renting out one or two of the apartments included in the property. That would generate revenue and help offset some of the operating costs.
She also foresees the possibility of such money-generating endeavors as a seasonal corn maze and farm stand, both of which would meld well with the organization’s goal to support youth in obtaining vocational and life-skills training at the prospective new facility.
“Most of these youth(s) want to succeed and want to overcome their obstacles,” Cavender wrote. “They want to finish school, get degrees, and become productive members of society. They just need the help from the community that their families failed to give them.”
To make a donation or learn more, visit www.ryanshouseforyouth.org/capital-campaign.html.
Legislation to house transient children gaining momentum
Bill HB2440, legislation developed by Ryan’s House for Youth and three fellow western Washington youth advocacy organizations, has been garnering support from lawmakers in Olympia.
The bill passed through the House with only one nay Monday, Feb. 22, and passed through the executive session in the Senate Committee on Human Services and Mental Health and Housing Thursday, Feb. 25. It is now on its way to be heard once more by the Rules Committee. If it is pulled for a vote and approved by the majority, it will pass.
As reported by the Whidbey News-Times Jan. 23, recent changes administered by the Department of Social and Human Services altered the requirements for host families, making the process of approving host families more difficult and lengthy. This legislation would award an exemption to host families similar to that granted to foreign exchange students, making the process simpler and more feasible for prospective hosts.