Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets, Seattle (206) 726-8500
Salary: $8.50 an hour
About PSKS: The nonprofit, headed by Director Elaine Simons, provides such services as job training and drug intervention for local homeless youth and young adults. In accordance with its bylaws, half of the organization’s staff and half its board are made up of representatives from the homeless community.
His Job: Kickingstone has worked at PSKS since May 2006, and serves as the organization’s face on the street to gay youth. (According to “An Epidemic of Homelessness,” a recently released study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and the National Coalition for the Homeless, between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.)
Kickingstone goes to the main office to pick up lunches and donated supplies – such as toothbrushes, gloves and hats – and distributes them to street youth while initiating them in conversation. For those interested in getting help, Kickingstone will discuss the services at PSKS.
Best Part of the Job: “I love inspiring people to follow their dreams and their hearts, and do what they’re put on this planet to do. I’m really happy when I see people come in after not having seen them for a month, and they got clean and got a job. Their whole essence changed, they’re just, like, shining.”
Worst Part of the Job: “Having to pass up a kid that you really want to help, but knowing that they’re at a point in their life where you can’t touch them.”
Memorable Moment: All of the agencies that advocate for the homeless in King County get together once a year for a one-day effort to count and document the homeless population. Afterward, PSKS hosts a squatter slumber party. When Kickingstone went in at 3 a.m. last year, “There were close to 40 people sleeping on the floor. To see all those kids. … A lot of them I hadn’t even seen before. And, I mean, I’m out there every day.”
Why Seattle: “Even before I got old enough to understand what homelessness was, I heard Seattle was sort of a homeless Mecca. There are so many services [available here] that people come here because of it.”
Queer and Homeless: “When I left home [in Bosal, Wash., near Lake Washington], I came out to the city and was couch surfing for awhile. I was never into the street scene, because I didn’t feel comfortable. Especially being queer; when you’re queer on the streets, you can’t really be out about it. …
“I’d say probably at least half of the kids here I know that are queer are on the streets. A lot of queer youth are on the streets for coming out and getting the boot from their parents. With hetero street kids, it’s usually having problems with drugs or fighting with parents.”
Outreach Strategy: “I don’t really have a game plan when I go out there, just kind of play it by ear. In my experience, before anyone can help somebody, that person has to want to help themselves. So if I get the impression they just want socks, I don’t really bug them about coming to the center.”