Photo Credit: Jim Bennett

Last week, Campion Foundation grantee A Way Home Washington (AWHWA) joined with Washington First Lady Trudi Inslee and Pearl Jam to launch a major statewide campaign to end youth and young adult homelessness in four communities by 2022. The campaign, called the Anchor Community Initiative, will be a key part of creating a statewide system to ensure that every young person in Washington has a safe place to sleep.

In addition to First Lady Inslee and AWHWA Executive Director Jim Theofelis, speakers at the event included Stone Gossard and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam. Building off the energy and enthusiasm from The Home Shows concerts at Safeco Field over the summer, Pearl Jam is making AWHWA and coordinated efforts in King County one of the band’s centerpiece investments in addressing homelessness in Washington.

AWHWA announced that four communities will take on the challenge of ending youth homelessness—Pierce, Yakima, Walla Walla, and Spokane counties. This coordinated effort will bring together government, service providers, advocates, philanthropy and young people to figure out innovative local solutions to set young people on a path to safe housing and success.

Partnering with efforts already underway in King County, Snohomish County and rural counties in Washington state under the federal Youth Homelessness Demonstration Projects, this first cohort of communities will use data-informed and equity-driven best practices to create a local plan. AWHWA will help bring together all parts of these communities to be part of the solution—housing, schools, child welfare, workforce development and others.  A focus on equity and partnership from youth who have experiences with homelessness will ensure that we can address the disproportional representation of youth of color and LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness.

The importance of lifting the voices of youth really hit home at the launch event with the participation of Roel and Azia, two young adults who have experienced homelessness at points in their life.  Roel, a consultant for AWHWA, stated, “Having experienced homelessness as a kid, I know how hard it can be. You have no stability, nothing to keep you centered and focused on your future. When you are struggling just to find something to eat and a place to sleep, you have no time to think about school or work or anything like that. That is why the system that the Anchor Community Initiative will build is so important. Being able to get help when it’s needed opens a lot of future doors.”

Part of an innovative public-private partnership with Washington state’s Office of Homeless Youth, the Anchor Community Initiative will leverage public and private support and build the will to end youth homelessness. We are thankful for the leadership and support of our philanthropic partners in this effort, including Ballmer Group, the Raikes Foundation, and the Satterberg Foundation. These efforts are the result of years of momentum building on the state and national level.  With the tremendous leadership of AWHWA’s Co-Chairs, First Lady Inslee and a council of young people from around the state, we know that we can be the first state to end youth homelessness.

To learn more about the anchor communities and support this work, please visit the A Way Home Washington website.

Press coverage from the event:

Pearl Jam partners with local groups to fight homelessness, Q13 FOX

Formerly homelessness man now a resource for non-profit benefiting from Pearl Jam’s funds, Q13 FOX

Pearl Jam announces donation to help end youth homelessness, The Seattle Times