Editor’s Note: Bert Waugh, from Beaverton, will be honored this week with a Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award from Linfield College. He will be recognized for his humanitarian work with homeless youth.
McMINNVILLE — Empty bedrooms are hard to come by in the Waugh household. Bert Waugh and his wife Susy share a passion for helping abandoned youth and have provided shelter — both in their home and through their organization, Transitional Youth — for thousands of teens over the years.
Even while raising their own four children, the Waughs did not hesitate to bring youth into their home. “When there was someone on the street, they’d call us,” Waugh said. “If we had an open bedroom, they would come into the house.”
President and owner of Prudential Northwest Properties, Waugh has made a name for himself in more than just the real estate industry. As the founder of Transitional Youth, he has been a father figure to thousands of homeless youth. For his professional and volunteer efforts, Waugh has been named the 2009 Linfield College Distinguished Alumnus.
“I’ve always had a heart for kids,” said Waugh, who began working with street youth while still in high school and created Transitional Youth in 1991.
With the goal of moving kids off the street and into society, Transitional Youth provides food, clothing and personal hygiene items as well as meals and a street church for those interested. In addition to its Portland location, the organization currently runs a boys house in Vancouver, Wash.
Waugh is the first to admit it’s a difficult population. “They don’t look good, smell good or sound good,” he said,” but there’s a real need. When you do have success, it’s fulfilling. If you can affect one life, you’ve done well.”
Now Waugh is on the cusp of realizing a 40-year dream. “That’s a long time to have a dream,” he said. Transitional Youth is launching “Home on the Range,” a rehabilitation program based in a 7,000 square foot house on seven acres near Battle Ground, Wash. Ultimately, Waugh hopes the facility will house 30–40 youth who will take part in hands–on activities at Royal Ridges, an adjacent 300-acre horse and outdoor camp. Not only will teens receive structured training in life skills, but they will have the chance to become certified horse trainers and riding instructors.
“It gets them far away from the attractions of being downtown,” Waugh said. According to Waugh, youth enter the program at age 16 or 17 with police records and psychological problems. Most have been sexually and physically abused by the age of five and living on the streets for years. Prison and death surround them.
“One hundred percent of these kids have been abused and all of these horses on the ranch are abused,” said Waugh. “You take an abused horse and an abused kid and you will not believe the transformation.”
Waugh got his start in business at Linfield, where he studied history and psychology while playing basketball for Ted Wilson, who was also his Beaverton High School coach. He names Wilson as one of the four most inspirational people of his life, along with his father, his pastor and Stan Wiley.
“I loved my time at Linfield,” said Waugh. “It was a great experience.” In March Waugh hosted Linfield student volunteers during Alternative Spring Break week at the Street Church Outreach Center of Transitional Youth. The Linfield students performed community service, served 1,500 meals and learned about homelessness.
Waugh also volunteers his time internationally. He is chair of the board for Medical Teams International, formerly Northwest Medical Teams. “I’ve been blessed with amazing personal experiences,” he said, describing recent trips to Uganda, during which he helped to deliver 20,000 books to children, and Mexico City, where he encountered 70 families living at the base of a 1,500 foot mountain of garbage. “I never have an opportunity to be down because every day someone is so much worse off. I’m thankful.”
Over the years, Waugh has remained committed to his dream of getting youth off the street. “We’ve had more disappointments than successes — that’s the nature of what we do,” Waugh said. “But we’re there when they want to make the change. Naively, my goal is to get every kid off the street. But many do not want to get off the street. They’ve never had anyone they can trust or look up to. It’s a long process. We want to be there. It’s an amazing experience when you see that transformation.”
To find out how to donate to Transitional Youth, call (503) 350-7268 or visit www.transitionalyouth.org.
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