Babies of Homelessness: The mission to help kids in Seattle
It’s impossible to hear the stories of Seattle’s homeless babies and not be touched by them. But one Ron and Don listener is taking the next step. Star Lalario is making it her mission to help the youngest victims of the homeless crisis through her new nonprofit Babies of Homelessness.
“This was actually sparked by you guys,” Star said. “There was a story … about a two-year-old found in the Jungle. That just created a fire in me. I couldn’t believe we, as a city, were allowing that to happen. I couldn’t sleep. I had to do something.”
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The story of the toddler is not an anomaly — there are others. To learn more, Star contacted Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission and joined them on one of the their outreach efforts. As they scoured the side streets and underpasses for those living out in the cold, she noticed the focus was on the adults. There wasn’t much for homeless babies and children on the streets.
“The rescue vans weren’t really equipped for kiddos,” Star said. “So, I asked them, ‘Can I just give you guys care packages? Socks, formula, diapers, little things they could hand out.’ They said ‘sure,’ so it started with me just going to Costco, making these care packages in my formal dining room.”
Focusing on homeless babies
Although Star has two children of her own, her connection with the issue has more to do with her own story. She was a homeless child herself and remembers sleeping in cars and shelters after her mother fled domestic violence. It started when Star was just 10 years old.
“I was in-and-out of the foster care system, and my junior high to high school years we were actually living in a women’s shelter,” Star said.
Her mom found help at church and through social service agencies, but Star said she and the other children weren’t really the priority. Even as the crisis has recently overwhelmed the Seattle area, Star worries there isn’t enough emphasis on toddlers sleeping in tents or newborns living in shelters.
“We have to wrap our head around that and figure it out, because they’re the most vulnerable,” she said.
Her approach is pretty straightforward. She works to get rid of red tape and to get homeless babies what they need right away.
“Give them diapers! If they need diapers, can’t we just give it to them!” Star said, frustrated and determined. “I will go find that 2-year-old under the bridge and I will give them what they need.”
Star’s passion is catching on with friends, her community and even strangers. Babies of Homelessness has gone from a one-woman show to a growing non-profit in just a few short months.
“I have storage units full of clothing donations, which is a huge blessing,” Star said. “A friend of mine created the Facebook page and website. I have an amazing community of support. So now, the search and rescue is just one small part of our outreach.”
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Star and her growing group of volunteers are visiting church parking lots where homeless babies and children are sleeping in cars. They’re supporting kids in overnight shelters and day centers. Star is even working with Mary’s Place to help newborns who are just being released from the hospital.
“Often times the baby has nothing. Nothing!” she said. “We think of having a baby and we think of having a baby shower, and this mom has absolutely nothing and she’s going to a shelter. Hopefully.”
So, her latest effort is to create baby boxes full of items that newborns need. Even the box itself can be a safe place for baby to sleep.
There are many days that Star drives home crying because of the families she can’t help due to drug addiction or abuse. But then, there are other days — like the little girl who got a brand new rain coat thanks to Babies of Homelessness.
“She got off the bus in her raincoat and it was raining, and I was like, ‘I love your raincoat!’ She goes ‘It’s so sweet.’ She just loved it. And that made my day,” Star said with a smile.