Seeing a brighter future

I’ve been offended and disgusted by the racist language and horrible imagery on display in Virginia.  When you add to it North Korea developing nuclear missile capability and another horrific vehicle attack in Europe, it’s no wonder that folks on social media are asking to see cat videos and photos of babies.  It is easy to get depressed and discouraged.

As I struggled with the ugliness, violence and hatred experienced in Charlottesville, two gatherings this week have given me cause for hope for our future here in Pierce County.

On Wednesday I attended a celebration to recognize the 100-Day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness.  If you haven’t heard of it, some of our colleagues in Human Services partnered with a number of service agencies, nonprofits and the City of Tacoma to develop some sustainable solutions to youth and young adult homelessness.  Amazingly, it was the first time that many of the organizations had collaborated.

The thought of even one young person without a safe place to call home is unacceptable but the team set an ambitious goal: to house 168 youth currently without a stable home. Over the 100 days, the teams reached out and connected with young people who were on the street, in cars or couch surfing.

Over the course of the Challenge, the team found permanent places for 176 youth and young adults!  In addition to collaborating, the team also learned a lot about our young people who end up homeless. I fully subscribe to the team’s motto on their t-shirts (designed by a member of the team) “We can end youth homelessness!”

While we still have a long way to go to achieve that goal,  I’m grateful to those who worked so tirelessly to take care of and shelter 176 young people in our community.  I’m also eager to get moving on the new youth housing facilities at Arlington Road in Salishan.  That project was part of the supplemental budget submitted to the Council earlier this year and I can’t wait until we cut the ribbon on sorely needed housing.

If you haven’t had the honor of meeting her, Judge Helen Whitener in our Superior Court is a force of nature. She is smart, focused, articulate and driven. On Thursday she hosted more than 80 incredible girls and young women from across Western Washington in Courtroom 100 for a day-long conference called the Color of Justice.

While we often say that justice is blind, it is probably more accurate and appropriate to say that justice reflects every color and shade imaginable.  At least, it should.

Along with about 20 of her fellow female judges, Judge Whitener showed her young guests that they could aim for a judge’s black robe and gavel.

You can check out videos of the presentations at our Facebook page and here’s a link to Justice Mary Yu’s powerful presentation.

I had the privilege of spending some time getting to know the girls. I was particularly taken by one 11-year-old Latina girl. She sat with her legs tucked under her like a child but spoke with mature determination as she described her dream of becoming a lawyer and judge someday. Most kids that age don’t have a clue what a judge even does but my new friend exuded conviction and confidence.  I don’t doubt she will achieve her goal.

I end this week with renewed hope and excitement for a brighter future. Looking into the eyes and heart of a young person with a dream will do that to you.

Thanks for reading,

Bruce Dammeier