We CAN Prevent and End Youth Homelessness in Washington State

At A Way Home Washington, we have a saying: “Yes!” to “Yes!” This means we’re working to build a statewide system that ensures communities will have the capacity to respond to youth and young adult homelessness in their area, and young people will no longer have to travel long distances to get help. So, when a young person or a family says, "Yes, I need support," local services can meet this request and say, “Yes. We can and will support you.”

Despite the challenges we face, we are finally seeing the kind of momentum necessary to permanently lift young people out of homelessness in our state. This momentum has been generated by thousands of committed individuals in communities all over Washington.

A Way Home Washington is working to advance our mission through Awareness, Connection, and Action.

Awareness

Improving lives begins with changing the conversation about youth homelessness – informing folks that young people often end up on the streets through no fault of their own, and that we are now building a statewide system in Washington to prevent and end this epidemic once and for all.

A Way Home Washington works with partners to raise awareness about the scope, causes of, and solutions to youth and young adult homelessness in Washington state. That’s why we kicked off our work with a listening and learning tour and a landscape scan – helping us understand the unique needs of different communities and tell their stories.

Connection

We focus on facilitating and creating stronger connections between communities making progress in the work to end youth and young adult homelessness and those wanting to learn more. Because when one community benefits, all of Washington should benefit.

We recently brought together communities in Spokane, Pierce, and King counties to kick off 100-Day Challenges to accelerate progress in the fight against youth and young adult homelessness. These communities have set ambitious goals for housing youth within 100 days, and they are already changing the conversation about what’s possible. We were inspired to see this model work in other regions across the country with support from A Way Home America, a national partner of A Way Home Washington.

Action

We plan to take what we learn and build on the partnerships we develop to spark the kind of action that can change the lives of young people across our state.

In Washington state, we are fortunate to have recently established the Office of Homeless Youth—an office within the state Department of Commerce that is committed to providing a better future for Washington’s young people. A Way Home Washington is proud to have worked with the Office of Homeless Youth to help develop their Prevention & Protection Programs Report.

This report lays out the key strategies and programs that can help turn the tide on youth homelessness. Whether its elevating the voices of those who have experienced homelessness, or identifying specific policy proposals—such as designating a liaison for youth experiencing homelessness for every school—this plan provides a roadmap to help communities implement solutions that work for them.

We also are fortunate in Washington state to have a proactive philanthropic network committed to systems change and improvement that is a key partner in working toward positive change.  Both the Raikes Foundation and the Schultz Family Foundation have been instrumental in supporting the work to end youth and young adult homelessness in Washington state. Others are joining the mission.

All Good Work Begins at Home

Change begins with constantly striving to help communities identify and strengthen the elements we know are essential in giving young people a chance at a better life. This includes developing a state system that is coordinated, data-informed, and performance-driven, with youth and young adults and their families at the center.

And while A Way Home Washington is locally focused, our long-term goal is to be a model for the entire nation, bringing forward best practices that can be tailored and implemented at any scale in support of the federal coordinated community response to preventing and ending youth homelessness.

Let’s Continue the Momentum

To learn more about the work in Washington state, visit us at www.awayhomewa.org. Or learn about the national movement at www.awayhomeamerica.org. I hope you will say “YES!” in your community to help young people find their way home.

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