Intentional (and Unintentional) Service Providers in Seattle's U District

In order to better analyze the gaps in service provision and the possibilities of a space like the Doorway Project’s community cafe, we consolidated information on the service provision in the University District, including both intentional service providers and unintentional service providers, meaning those businesses and the University who provide resources to our clients. As the population of unstably housed youth has risen, the number of service providers, both intentional and unintentional, has grown accordingly. 

What we have now is a wealth of service providers within our district: Youth Care, New Horizons, Teen Feed, Street Youth Ministries, PSKS, Sanctuary Art Center, ROOTS, and now, the Doorway Project. We have medical resources, food services, emergency shelters, transitional shelters, case managers, harm reduction educators, education access, and mental health resources for our clients. 

  A weekly snapshot of many U District youth services.

A weekly snapshot of many U District youth services.

The history of service provision is a story of need, empathy, and resource provision. Various groups noticed an abundance of young adults experiencing homelessness. Moved by empathy for these people, they began grassroots organizing to provide resources for their people. ROOTS, the largest emergency young adult shelter in the district, began with a network of churches opening their pews to young adults on a rotational basis. Teen Feed, a program begun by University of Washington nurses, addressed the malnourishment of young adults. UDYC began as a place for young people to access the resources they needed.

This is complicated by the unintentional service provision roles that many businesses, public places, and the University now find themselves assuming. Many youth and young adults navigate to the U District not only for the service providers, but also for the unintentional resources the University District provides. Historically, the UW has provided a safe place for young adults to congregate, as they can blend in with the University population. Over the decades, this use of University facilities has become more noticed. This has resulted in increasing numbers of trespasses from University property. This, accompanied by more stringent trespassing laws, have made made accessing University resources an increasingly risky endeavor. As trespasses off of University of Washington property increase, so to do trespasses out of businesses on the Ave. Ave businesses, alleys, and street corners are also resources for Seattle's homeless youth.

In 1997, the Seattle Police department performed a survey of the Ave. This survey asked people what they thought of homelessness, cleanliness, and safety on the ave. The results of this survey displayed an increased desire for city development, a desire which was realized first in 2002. In the decades since, cleanliness and development plans have worked to improve transportation and ave facilities. As these improvement plans continue, it becomes increasingly important to consider the place of the Ave's street population.

We feel that the Doorway Project can address the needs of the University District’s unstably housed population in new and important ways: by providing a physical space where no one is turned away for lack of funds, where people can access resources they need in their daily lives, and by creating a community of empathy. 


Researched by Mika Phillips and Sam Fredman. Written by Sam Fredman. If you want to know more about when and where to find service providers, please visit our Resources page.

*Many thanks to Sinan Demirel for sharing his knowledge of U District service provision. If you are interested in learning more about the history of homlessness in Seattle, Sinan has incredibly well-researched article on CrossCut here : https://crosscut.com/author/sinan-demirel