Young people help guide over $40 million in grants to serve homeless youth
Office of Homeless Youth sought input from those with lived experience to evaluate competitive proposals for funding from service providers across Washington state
OLYMPIA, WA — Nearly 60 young people with lived experience of homelessness from across Washington state gathered recently in SeaTac over three days to help evaluate hundreds of applications for funding through the Office of Homeless Youth (OHY) at the Washington Department of Commerce. The more than $40 million in grants announced today will increase support and direct services to ensure that no young person spends a single night without a safe, stable place to call home.
Funded projects support a wide range of interventions to prevent and address housing instability among young people ages 12 through 24, including emergency housing and rental assistance, crisis intervention services, outreach to connect homeless youth with resources, mental health services, and flexible funding to divert young people from the homeless crisis response system.
“Hearing from those we serve, particularly those with lived experience of the challenges we are addressing, is core to Commerce’s commitment to equity and transparency in our program design and funding decisions,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong. “We are grateful for the time, passion and invaluable insights these young people contributed to make this a better and more inclusive process.”
OHY Executive Director Kim Justice said that youth engagement and voice in the process is one of the office’s top priorities, noting this is the second year (Medium story) that young experts were consulted. Other priorities considered in determining the funding awards included geographic distribution and equity in services for youth of color and LGBTQ+ youth.
The lived experts were included in decision-making in a way not seen before in state government. Young people spent nearly six months engaged in this process, taking a lead role in identifying funding priorities, developing scoring criteria, and analyzing $120 million in funding requests through the lens of their own experience struggling with housing instability and accessing services and programs for support. Their evaluations, alongside other criteria identified in the competitive funding process, determined which applicants received funding.
“This is my second year of being involved in the RFP process and conference – it has opened my eyes and showed me how as youth and young adults we can directly impact our community,” said Jalen Hayes, OHY Youth Advocate from Snohomish County. “Making new connections and networking with my peers helped show me that others across the state are interested in making a change like myself. The OHY staff is dedicated to helping youth and young adults and making sure our voices are heard. They take pride in this new way of incorporating youth and young adult lived experiences into the system and we as youth appreciate it.”
The grants come from $37.7 million in state funds and $5 million in US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds for the Youth Homeless Demonstration Program available to 11 counties in the Balance of State Continuum of Care.
The Office of Homeless Youth (OHY) was created in the Department of Commerce by the Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Act in 2015. OHY leads statewide efforts to reduce and prevent homelessness for youth and young adults through five priority service areas to ensure our youth and young adults have: Stable Housing – Every youth has a safe and healthy place to sleep; Family Reconciliation – Families are reunited when safe and appropriate; Permanent Connections – Youth have opportunities to establish positive, healthy relationships with adults; Education and Employment – Youth have opportunities to advance their education or training and obtain employment; and Social and Emotional Well-Being – Youth have access to behavioral and physical health care; services nurture each youth’s strengths and abilities. To learn more, visit Office of Homeless Youth (wa.gov).