If you step inside Simple & Just, Queen Anne these days, you’ll see brilliant macrame hanging planters and potted gardens created for you by our youth interns. Through our local partners, we are able to provide the space for youth to develop work and self-care skills, and the retail environment for sales to happen. The interns make a living wage while they develop these new muscles.

Since we opened our doors in October 2016, our city has experienced some of the biggest economic gains in history. Our poor and middle class neighbors have often suffered. For me, it’s been a big year of getting my head around some of the structural causes of economic injustice and what it looks like in Seattle.

Just in our little neighborhood, the Ballard Food Bank serves 17 public schools. Specifically, they provide 340 kids on free and reduced lunch, weekend bags chock full of items like canned soup, tuna, energy bars, and trail mix. These items go home over the weekend with kids in food insecure families who may not get proper nutrition over the weekend without the additional calories. These bags are a hit with the elementary set, but once kids hit middle school, the stigma around the handouts prevent some from participating in the program.

Why are so many families food insecure? It follows that people stretching to pay high Seattle rents might struggle to provide healthy food for their kids. With average rent prices at 45-50% of median income, an unexpected medical bill or car repair can push a family over the brink.

Through Door to Grace and Stolen Youth events this year, my eyes have been further opened to different ways that sex trafficking can begin. A former sex-worker described how as a teenager, she was always hungry. Through sex work, she could fill her tummy. For her, it was that simple. Others are looking for a roof over their heads, just wanting to get out of the rain.

I fell into this work through my friendship with Carolyn Quatier and her brilliant, creative daughters. I did fall a little in love with them and wanted to support Carolyn in her endeavor, but my entry point to the shop is my background with Nordstrom as a buyer and merchant, not as a crisis worker for the commercially sexually exploited among us.

I have recently learned that in Seattle the sexual exploitation of minors is about 50-50 girls to boys. Our organization has been geared up to assist women and girls. Now through our partnership with Door to Grace and with YouthCare, we are working on opening up new internship opportunities.

One thing we know through research is that these kids aren’t looking for handouts. They want to work. Nothing builds self-esteem like work and often obstacles are as small as bus fare. The lives of the kids we aim to help have a level of chaos unimaginable to our middle-class sensibilities. Tattoos can be an issue, as well as clothes to cover them up. The road to necessary job skills even with goodwill on all sides can be long. Simple & Just is more than your community store. Your donations and purchases are appreciated as we continue the necessary work of helping Seattle kids.

Simple & Just thanks you for your participation!