Every Tuesday and Thursday Luc and I head to Stumptown Coffee on 12th and formulate a plan on what we may expect walking in to Spruce Street, our Theater and Viz Art class for teen runaways located off of 12th across from King Co juvie. We sip coffee and talk about the recent headlines or current events and how they might relate to our kids – i.e. funding, legal issues, cops v. kids etc.
After we are fully pumped on “Teaching Juice” we head on over and get buzzed into the facility. I have learned to look for police cars in the parking lot that hint at some form of trouble or the delivery of a new resident or the exit of an old one. I have also learned that it really does not mean anything. It’s just business as usual at Spruce Street.
After a brief rundown of what is happening, who is hot, who is mellow, we head upstairs for what I like to call ‘the tightrope walk.” It is the first 5 minutes of face time that makes or breaks the class that day. It feels like that sometimes. I do not know whether I will be greeted with hostility, anger, fear or apathy. It is the last one, apathy that is the most difficult to unwind. I can use and deflect the energy from the anger and hostility but trying to get 8 teenagers who have been stripped off their possessions, stripped of their clothes, no shoes, no TV, no friends, off the couch to play our little theatre games or paint a painting is very challenging.
The entire environment is very challenging. These kids are pissed. They have a right to be. They have been strapped with real life adult problems and yes some of which they brought on themselves but it is not easy to keep it together when you have drug addicted parents and no safe place to cool out. So they end up here, with Luc and myself. Every Tuesday and Thursday, playing Bipitty Bipitty Bop and Stone Face. Learning how to Jerk and “do The Dougie”. Sometimes we talk about life on the streets and where they want to end up in their lives or just play music and sing.