For the past two years, the Campion Foundation and Campion Advocacy Fund has been proud to partner with a broad group of stakeholders across Washington state to prevent and end youth homelessness. We have been especially proud to help launch A Way Home Washington, a movement to prevent and end youth homelessness in Washington state, led by the expertise of its Executive Director, Jim Theofelis.
For all of us working on behalf of the 13,000 young people in Washington who experience homelessness each year, this has been an inspiring and encouraging week.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a directive that outlines concrete actions to develop an integrated and consistent statewide approach to ending youth homelessness. The directive calls for the creation an interagency work group to establish shared goals, outcomes and action plans, with members from nearly 20 different state agencies.
The starting point for the work group will be a comprehensive plan to address many of the root causes of youth homeless outlined in a Report to the Governor and the Legislature that the Office of Homeless Youth published in December.
At a press conference to announce the directive, Tricia Raikes, co-founder of the Raikes Foundation, said “This is the most robust plan in the country,” and we wholeheartedly agree.
For instance, a critical focus of the plan is to increase coordination across state agencies to ensure that young people who are exiting public systems, from foster care to juvenile justice, do not fall into homelessness. Every year, over 1,700 youth exit these systems and have no place to go. We know we can do better.
The directive also asks these agencies to help young people access education, job training and healthcare, which will be critical to their success in the long-term. This comprehensive approach to prevention will be critical to ensuring that youth and young adults under the state’s care have access to housing and opportunity.
The group will be led by Kim Justice, executive director of the Office of Homeless Youth, which Gov. Inslee created in 2015 after the Washington state legislature worked in a bipartisan way to pass the Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Act.
Also this week, the No Child Sleeps Outside campaign, spearheaded by our colleagues at Dick’s Drive-In, the Schultz Family Foundation and Starbucks, announced it has raised more than $4.5 million in just 30 days to help house homeless children and their families in Seattle, an unprecedented outpouring of support from our community.
These announcements are great signs of progress and momentum in the battle to end youth homelessness in our state and around the country.
But none of us can rest easy. It will take a sustained effort to make meaningful, lasting changes to reduce the number of young people who experience homelessness each year. We will see the magnitude of that problem anew tonight when volunteers fan out to count King County’s homeless population as part of the annual Count Us In effort.
Still, this week’s positive developments are important milestones that remind us why this work is so important, and why it will ultimately succeed.
As First Lady Trudi Inslee – a co-chair of A Way Home Washington and an ardent champion of homeless youth – said Tuesday: “The promise and potential of these kids permeates all of our efforts – we can do this.”
For more coverage on the announcement from the Governor, follow these links:
Homeless Youths Can’t Be Left Behind – Tacoma News Tribune, January 23, 2017
A Way Home Washington’s Executive Director, Jim Theofelis speaks with KOMO News Radio following the Jauary 24 event:
Courtesy of KOMO News Radio. Interview aired on Tuesday, January 24, 2017.