Ryan’s House opens Freeland office for better service, access

Dustin Hamren and Lori Cavender stand in the newly established clothing room at Ryan’s House for Youth.

Young people on South Whidbey who lack permanent housing now have access to additional services from Ryan’s House for Youth thanks in part to a new, larger location.

The organization was previously located in a small office on Scott Road in Freeland from which it relocated in January.

Though the move wasn’t far, as the new office is located just next door to the former, the change has been significant, according to Lori Cavender, executive director. The new office is about three times the size of their former space, she explained, and was granted to them by a “generous” landlord at Lewis Properties.

“This has been a huge gift,” Cavender said.

The community is invited to visit the new space and learn more about the organization’s services during an open house from 5-7 p.m. Monday, May 18 at 1832 Scott Road in Freeland.

Ryan’s House for Youth is a non-profit organization on South Whidbey which supports young people who lack permanent housing.

Cavender said the organization has assisted about 50 young people within the last year, either through their host family program or through drop-in services.

It was founded in 2009 in order to address the needs of teens who were struggling to complete high school or vocational courses while living in cars, in the woods or on friends’ couches, according to a recent news release.

The organization’s new space includes a room stocked full of various clothing items in every size, from undergarments to shoes and coats to prom dresses.

“That’s probably the thing we’re most proud of,” Cavender said.

Previously, they often had to stack piles of clothes in the walkway or on the one small couch.

Just beyond the clothing area lies a bathroom where students are provided with all of the necessary toiletries to wash up. Students can drop off laundry as well.

Ryan’s House also offers coffee, tea, water bottles and “quick foods” such as granola bars, as well as canned and boxed goods that students can take on their way out. Backpacks, sleeping bags and yoga mats are available as well. The latter aren’t for exercise, Cavender explained, but for keeping dry while sleeping in the woods.

Cavender said there are approximately six students currently sleeping in the woods that Ryan’s House staff are aware of.

Futons and a large sectional couch provide a safe resting space for those in need of a few hours’ shuteye.

“A lot of times when kids are homeless … they don’t get a good night’s sleep so they come here very tired during the day,” caseworker Dustin Hamren said.

“It’s a great space to be able to invite kids in and allow them to relax. When the kids are out sleeping in the woods, they’re so overly tired and so cold,” Cavender added. “They really just need a place to regroup and know that there are people who care about them. That’s what we can do really well here.”

When students need a ride to appointments, Hamren or Cavender are able to accompany them.

In addition to the larger space, Cavender was able to hire Hamren as a full-time staff member. He’d previously been working on a part-time volunteer basis.

Having Hamren on staff allows the two of them to assist multiple students simultaneously, Cavender said. She recalled a recent instance in which she accompanied a student to a meeting with the school while Hamren took another to an appointment in court.

The organization relies upon support from the community and accepts donations of funds, age-appropriate clothing, school and toiletry supplies, water bottles and non-perishable food. Volunteers are also always needed, according to a recent news release.