Bicycle Paper: ‘Cycling Forward’ empowers homeless youth with bike fixing skills

The Bicycle Paper recently profiled “Cycling Forward,” a YouthCare program downtown that empowers homeless and under-served youth with bike fixing skills and the chance to get wheels of their own. The program provides young people with a stable learning environment and mentorship needed to get a forgotten bike back into shape.

From the Bicycle Paper:

Tonight is like any other Tuesday night at Orion, when from 3:30 to 6:30, anyone interested in learning about, fixing or riding can come into the center to refurbish one of the nearly two dozen bikes in various conditions which hang behind the reception area. One young man is here for the first time; Rouse helps him pick out a fixer-upper and sets him to work with a detailed checklist to identify what parts can stay and what needs to be replaced or repaired.

“Cycling Forward” is just one of the many programs that YouthCare offers to help homeless young men and women find stable housing, education, training and employment. Since 1974, the organization has served homeless and under-served youth ages 11-24. The cycling program is unique because individuals who face barriers keeping them from other more structured programs can find a safe and stable place to learn new skills with mentors to guide them.

Rouse and Worthen keep the atmosphere comfortable and flexible. They are careful to respect everyone’s boundaries and encourage teamwork and patience. Light meals are also available as are showers and laundry so they don’t have to sacrifice basic needs to enter a program.

The story is great, but the paragraph below is my favorite part:

Another participant used his refurbished bike to spend the day filling out job applications, and found work within a week. Rouse has even loaned bikes to youth in crisis. For example, one participant took a bike out for several hours around the city and “came back with a huge smile on his face drenched in sweat.” He needed an escape from his crisis and sometimes riding bicycles can provide that. Another teen came to Cycling Forward dreaming of saving for a car because he believed he needed one to find a girlfriend. After refurbishing a bike in the program and riding avidly around town, he met a girl cyclist and confessed, “I don’t think I need a car anymore.”

When I wrote for Real Change (which I miss doing), I had the opportunity to sit down and talk at length with many people who found themselves homeless for all kinds of unique reasons. There is no one “cause” for homelessness, just as there is no single solution to help.

And it makes sense that many homeless people ride bikes. Biking is a solution to a myriad of problems that differ from person-to-person. Bikes are obviously not a silver bullet to end all homelessness (or obesity, global warming, declining business districts, traffic jams, government budget shortfalls, and on and on), but they can be a huge help to many people. The more accessible bicycles are and the more people in our city feel safe biking, the more bikes can help more people.

This entry was posted in news and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Bicycle Paper: ‘Cycling Forward’ empowers homeless youth with bike fixing skills

  1. Pingback: Bicycle Paper: 'Cycling Forward' empowers … – Seattle Bike Blog | Bicycle News

  2. Fat Guy On A Bike says:

    I love hearing about stuff like this. It’s sad that people forget what a useful tool a bike can be. Whether it’s a transportation tool or a tool to help make someone’s day better.

  3. Tom says:

    Thanks for posting this Tom. What a pick-me-up!

  4. Dan Williams says:

    I agree. We (and certain bike companies) spend money to send bikes to Africa to help give people a lift out of poverty…why aren’t we doing more of that here? I know there are programs doing this already, but I’m sure they could use more visibility and support.

    Further, KONA has it’s “Africa Bike”, why not an “America Bike” that is 1) cheap, 2) fixable, 3) simple ???

  5. zach says:

    Where is this place? Can they take donated bikes to fix up? I have one that needs a little work, but its certainly not trash.

  6. Liz says:

    Yes, YouthCare can definitely take donated bikes and other equipment (we really need bike lights, bike locks, and safety gear right now). You can drop things off at the James W. Ray Orion Center at Denny and Stewart in downtown Seattle. Thanks!

  7. Daniel Byrd says:

    This is Awesome! A collegue here in Colorado Springs somehow got this article and sent it to me-it’s exactly the kind of effort myself and others are making to serve homeless and at-risk youth in Colorado Springs, CO….and I love it. We recently had an article in a local magazine called Peak Region Cyclist and we continue to develop our bike program and want to develop it further. I really hope this article reaches more people in your area and prompts people to donate whatever they can.

  8. Priscilla Handy says:

    Lincoln, Nebraska has a homeless bicyclist who rides a circuit of city parks everyday. He has camped out at a local park near me every morning since April (2012). It’s winter now, but one reason he cites for NOT going to a shelter is that he is afraid his bike will be stripped. What kind of secure bicycle storage do you all know about to offer the homeless? Are there places where the homeless can take their bicycle inside? As a bicyclist, I think he is a little more attached to his bike than is emotionally healthy, but it is his lifeline. He isn’t going inside until he’s satisfied his bike will be safe.

Comments are closed.