Governor Inslee directs action to prevent and end youth homelessness

State’s Office of Homeless Youth releases report, will guide multi-agency work group addressing the complex needs of homeless youth

Joined by First Lady Trudi Inslee, the state’s Office of Homeless Youth and A Way Home Washington today announced a directive from Governor Jay Inslee and proposed specific actions designed to prevent and end youth homelessness in communities throughout Washington State.

“Right now in Washington State over 13,000 people between the ages of 12 and 24 have no safe, stable place to call home,” said Kim Justice, director of the state’s Office of Homeless Youth at the Department of Commerce. “Instead of studying for tomorrow’s test, they are worrying about where they will sleep tonight, or if the place they are crashing today will be an option tomorrow. Their safety and future are uncertain.”

Citing recommendations detailed in the Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Programs December 2016 Report, Justice highlighted three immediate actions with potential for significant impact:

  1. Ensure that youth exiting public systems of care (foster care, juvenile justice system or treatment facilities) have a safe and stable place to go.
  2. Invest in crisis intervention for families experiencing instability.
  3. Improve education and employment outcomes for homeless youth.

The report provides a comprehensive roadmap based on a year-long collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders, including young people who have experienced homelessness, the Office of Homeless Youth Advisory Committee, and visits with community leaders throughout the state.

Based on recommendations in the report, Gov. Inslee’s calls for a multidisciplinary work group, led by the Office of Homeless Youth, to be the forum for an integrated and consistent statewide approach to addressing youth homelessness and supporting families.

“We need to ensure that all young people have a safe and stable place to call home and the support they need to thrive,” Inslee said. “This directive is a good first step at ensuring that we work together by promoting accountability, improving efficiency and establishing strategic collaboration.”

“A Way Home Washington is proud to stand with the Governor and the Office of Homeless Youth to support these important proposals that will help us turn the tide on youth homelessness,” said Jim Theofelis, executive director of A Way Home Washington. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of providers, advocates, families, and young people – we have developed a roadmap to help every community in Washington ensure youth and young adults receive essential support and can find a safe and stable place to call home.”

Designated work group members will include state representatives from sectors including child welfare, juvenile rehabilitation, employment, health care and other.

First Lady Trudi Inslee, who is honorary co-chair of the A Way Home Washington initiative with the Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness program at The Mockingbird Society.

“I have toured the state and have spoken with many young people who have shared their experiences with homelessness and their ideas for how to address it. Young people told me what they want is simple; they want to be stable and have a healthy, productive adulthood. I’m glad to see their words shaped these recommendations.”

“This experience has allowed us to offer authentic insight into the barriers that exist to youth and young adults as they work toward exiting homelessness. We collectively feel it is important that we are part of the decision made for homeless youth in our communities,” said Angel Gardner, youth advocate with The Mockingbird Society.

“The strength of a community is measured in part by how well it meets the needs of the most vulnerable residents,” said Commerce Director Brian Bonlender. “In helping youth who are facing life challenges that nobody should have to face, the Office of Youth Homelessness also strengthens communities throughout our state.”

“Implementing this plan won’t be easy but it can be done. One clear lesson we’ve learned in communities that have made progress is that government agencies need to work together to prevent homelessness or intervene early,” said Tricia Raikes, co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, which has contributed funding for the working group. “This coordination results in not only better outcomes for young people, but substantial cost savings.”

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