Grant funds outreach program helping youths leaving jail

The Coffee Oasis has received an innovation grant for $78,000 from the Office of Homeless Youth.

PORT ORCHARD — The Coffee Oasis has received an innovation grant for $78,000 from the Office of Homeless Youth, a division of the state Department of Commerce.

Coffee Oasis is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping homeless youth. All proceeds from the coffee shops fund Oasis youth programs, including overnight shelters, internship and job training programs and more. This grant, which will be paid out over 18 months starting in January, will fund an outreach case manager and a housing case manager for youth ages 18-25 who are exiting Kitsap County Jail.

“Our goal is that each youth would have housing in place before exiting,” said Erica Steele, director of Partnering Hope at Coffee Oasis.

Steele said they applied for the grant because they’d received funding from the Office of Homeless Youth in the past, and wanted to focus more efforts on ensuring youth exiting jail had housing in place before they exited.

“They don’t give us specifics for why they think we’re amazing,” Steele said about receiving the grant, “but I imagine they thought we could fulfill our contractual agreement.”

The Office of Homeless Youth awarded a total of $17.5 million for grants throughout the state. That includes, in part, six innovation grants, including one received by Coffee Oasis.

Innovation grants are specifically for preventing youth from leaving public institutions such as jail detention or mental health facilities and then fall into homelessness.

According to a press release from the Office of Homeless Youth, “A June 2017 report documented 1,800 youth and young adults experienced housing instability within 12 months of exiting foster care, behavioral health or criminal justice systems.”

“One of the exciting parts of this grant is that our goal is each youth would have housing in place before exiting,” Steele said.

“(We can) help connect them with family or a friend, or another agency housing or through our youth shelter.”

Coffee Oasis is directing the grant money to its program assisting young adults leaving Kitsap County Jail.

“Our drop center is just down the road from the jail,” Steele said.

“They can be released at any time of the day, there’s no knowing. Our hope is that they would walk down to our center and connect with our case manager.”

She said often they leave jail after the buses are no longer running. Coffee Oasis can help with transportation to get them to their arranged housing.

“We’re hoping they come to us to help with housing,” she said.

Other innovation grants were given to YouthCare in King County; Oasis Youth Center in Pierce County; Leam Child in Pierce County; All Home Youth Engagement Team in King County; and Legal Counsel for Youth and Children in King County.