History of the YMCA of Greater Seattle

The YMCA of Greater Seattle was founded by volunteers in 1876 and incorporated as a nonprofit in the Territory of Washington in 1877. Through 12 branches, two resident camps and more than 200 program sites, the YMCA serves 130,000 individuals annually through enrollments of over 190,000 kids, families and communities throughout King County. The YMCA offers a variety of programs that respond to community needs, including child care and after-school services, health and wellness, day and resident camps, youth sports, older adult programming, aquatics and fitness, parent/child events, alternative education, family financial literacy and environmental education.  Read a historical timeline to learn more about how the Y invented basketball, group swimming lessons and more, and inspired the creation of Father's Day and the Peace Corps.

The mission of the YMCA of Greater Seattle is "building a community where all people, especially the young, are encouraged to develop their fullest potential in spirit, mind and body." As part of this mission, the YMCA has a long and successful history of social service programs that engage transitioning young adults in mapping their futures.

Helping Youth Transition from Foster Care or Homelessness

In the mid-1970s, the Downtown Seattle YMCA converted hotel rooms into shelter space in response to community need to house the homeless. At the same time, the Metrocenter YMCA--now called Accelerator YMCA--opened (1973) with a focus on innovating programs around youth development.  In the 1980s, the YMCA took on several government contracts serving young people in foster care. The shelter downtown evolved into Young Adults in Transition, short-term housing for homeless young people. In the 1990s, the YMCA incorporated some scholarships and services to alumni of foster care. And in the 2000s, the YMCA was awarded several new youth grants and contracts, including a multi-million dollar investment in housing and supportive services for alumni of foster care. 

The YMCA is the sole provider of state-contracted independent living services for foster youth/former foster youth in King County, and hosts the region's only transition center (YMCA Center for Young Adults) targeting foster and former foster youth. The YMCA maintains more than 30% of King County's housing for young adults, offering a continuum that includes six shared homes, 20 downtown Seattle studio apartments, and scattered site apartments.  

Through a state Behavior Rehabilitation Services contract, the YMCA provides therapeutic foster care for children with significant behavioral challenges, and provides crisis mental health services for youth and families throughout King County (see our Family Services & Mental Health micro-website). The YMCA offers teen leadership, education and enrichment programs through several branches, and provides meals, showers, and services for homeless youth in the University District.

In recent years, the YMCA partnered with United Way of King County to promote financial independence with young people through The Foster Youth IDA (Individual Development Account) program, partnered with the City of Seattle to provide emergency rental assistance through a stimulus funding package, and partnered with King County to provide permanent housing to youth living in Y transitional housing.  Visit a full list of Y Young Adult Services programs here.