December 2021 Newsletter

Our December newsletter looks back at advancements made in 2021 to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness, along with a preview of what’s on tap for 2022. Read it here

November 2021 Newsletter

Check out our November Newsletter with highlights of new staff, as well as our new COVID dashboard that details the impacts of the pandemic on young people experiencing homelessness and housing instability. Read it here

October 2021 Newsletter

Read our October Newsletter with highlights of our Centralized Diversion Fund and information about expansion of the Anchor Communities Initiative. Read it here

2021 CDF Press Release

New Report Demonstrates Effectiveness of Flexible Diversion Funds for Young People At Risk of Homelessness


‘30 in 30’ challenge leads to 86 young people in Pierce, Spokane, Yakima, and Walla Walla counties prevented from entering the homelessness system or diverted out last month


WASHINGTON – A Way Home Washington (AWHWA), the campaign to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness in Washington state, released an eye-opening new report explaining and demonstrating achievements of the Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) pilot, a program that provides flexible payments made to prevent young people from experiencing homelessness or divert young people from homelessness within 30 days.

The report – The A Way Home Washington Centralized Diversion Fund: Using Flexible Funds to Prevent and End Youth and Young Adult Homelessness in Washington State was prepared for the Schultz Family Foundation, which serves as a key funder of the CDF along with the state Office of Homeless Youth. The report outlines the successes of the pilot program since its launch in August 2020 in Pierce, Spokane, Yakima, and Walla Walla counties. At press time in late May, the CDF had resulted in more than 220 young people finding a housing solution. 96% of people who exited homelessness did not return within three months. More than half were young people of color.

“Ending youth homelessness is not just about helping someone exit homelessness, it requires reaching a young person before they ever enter the homelessness system,” said Julie Patiño, Executive Director of A Way Home Washington. “By spending a relatively small amount of money now, we are able to creatively remove small barriers and end a young person’s housing crisis. In doing so, you save an incredible amount of time and resources later on – but most importantly, you might be saving someone’s life. The Centralized Diversion Fund is also an important tool to ensure young people of color and LGBTQ youth can access the unique housing resources that they need to move out of the homelessness system.”

A diversion fund is a flexible pool of money that can be drawn upon by youth workers in consultation with their clients – in this case, young people experiencing housing instability and at risk of not having a place to live. With the CDF, anyone who works with young people can be trained to administer diversion services, coupled with help for anything that might execute a housing plan, such as acquiring a state-issued identification card, filling out job applications, and applying for student financial aid. The CDF can be used for anything that will result in a young person being housed outside of the homelessness system. Examples include paying for child care so that a young parent can go to work and stabilize their housing situation, paying for a rental security deposit so that a young person can move into a new home, or  countless other creative solutions.

From May 20 to June 20, AWHWA worked with the four Anchor Communities – Pierce, Spokane, Yakima, and Walla Walla counties – to create an additional proof-of-concept for the CDF by launching the “30 Diversions In 30 Days” campaign. ‘30 In 30’ challenged each community to divert 30 young people out of homelessness during the 30 day period, using CDF funds and innovative housing solutions. In total, the communities broke expectations and served 86 young people over the 30 day stretch.

Elisha P., a Homeless Youth and Young Adult Services Navigator for Blue Mountain Action Council in Walla Walla, personally housed 19 people from May 20 to June 20. Elisha said, “As someone with my own experience of housing instability and young adult homelessness, I know that diversion is such a powerful tool beyond monetary measure. The real value is in the conversation that helps build a stronger connection between the young person and me. Connection and trust lends itself to some pretty amazing solutions. I can really lean in and create a space for the young person to share with me who they are and where they want to be. With that knowledge, I can sit in the passenger seat and help them find their own resolution. Diversion funding is what allows me to say “Yes!” when they identify a housing solution and make their creative idea a reality.”

AWHWA’s Anchor Community Initiative (ACI) that created the Centralized Diversion Fund is in the midst of a multi-year effort to functionally end youth and young adult homelessness in the four communities mentioned above – achieving “yes to yes,” where communities are able to stably house every young person experiencing homelessness quickly. Thanks to leadership from Governor Jay Inslee, AWHWA Co-Chair First Lady Trudi Inslee, and legislative leaders, state funding for the ACI was renewed this year for another budget biennium. At the same time, the state’s final budget includes funding to expand the ACI into new communities across the state. AWHWA will make announcements later this year about the future of ACI expansion, along with likely expansion of the CDF.

For more information (non press inquiries) about the Anchor Community Initiative and Centralized Diversion Fund, reach out to Ashley Barnes-Cocke at abarnes-cocke@awayhomewa.org.

What Is the Centralized Diversion Fund?

A Way Home Washington’s (AWHWA’s) Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) is a cost-effective, young person-centered solution to homelessness and housing instability that is already transforming the four Anchor Communities. Since its launch last August at the height of the pandemic, Yakima, Pierce, Spokane and Walla Walla counties have collectively housed more than 220 youth and young adult (YYA) households.

Diversion is a core component of AWHWA’s strategy to end youth and young adult homelessness in Washington. The CDF model assists individuals or households in quickly securing housing outside of the homelessness response system. Together, the young person and a trained provider tailor strategies that lead to safe and stable housing, coupled with one-time financial assistance when needed. 

The CDF also serves as a tool for prevention. Young people who are experiencing housing instability can access the fund to stabilize their living situation before they ever enter homelessness.

Those working with young people in the Anchor Communities can get trained and certified to provide diversion services. AWHWA has been diligently ensuring that many non-traditional providers are trained and certified in addition to larger community providers. This way, the CDF is far-reaching and easily accessible for young people. School district, worksource, legal aid, service provider and shelter staff, as well as folks working in organizations designed primarily to serve young people who are BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color ) and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer) are among those being trained to directly access the CDF.

The first step to accessing diversion occurs when a young person seeks housing support in their community. This is followed by a service provider meeting with them to explore creative housing possibilities. If financial assistance is needed, it is offered through the CDF. The provider enrolls the young person into HMIS (Homeless Management Information System). Then the young person exits to safe and stable housing, and the provider follows up with them within fourteen days to update their new location.

To capitalize on the momentum of our Anchor Communities doing amazing work to house young people on May 20, we launched our CDF 30 in 30 Challenge— a 30 day period where Anchor Communities strive to complete 30 diversions each. So far, each community has found innovative ways to increase the number of housing placements while ensuring that the housing is safe, stable and most importantly, chosen by the young person.

To see how Anchor Communities are benefiting from the CDF and how much they are spending, click here to go to our Public CDF Dashboard.

ACI Impact in Spokane

According to Matt Davis, one of the ACI leads in Spokane, in the short time that the Anchor Community Initiative (ACI) has been active, it has made a noticeable impact on the homeless youth and young adult system. One example of this is the formation of the “Yes to Yes” Committee, which has a focus on case conferencing to ensure that young people are not left behind in the system. Through case conferencing, you can see the intentionality of cross-system collaboration to a common goal—moving youth and young adults out of the homeless system and into permanent housing!

Many people think of cross-system collaboration as everyone who works with a young person coming together to communicate and share resources. This is only partially true. 

Cross-systems collaboration also means asking, “who needs to be at the table to help this young person move from experiencing homelessness to being housed?” and not waiting for them to come to the table, but instead bringing the table to them.

The ACI has shifted the paradigm around youth and young adults’ expertise as well. When speaking with him, Matt and many others in Spokane truly believe that youth and young adults with lived experience are the key to understanding the impact of homelessness, the impact of policy change and finding the right solutions that work for ending homelessness. Spokane made the decision to ensure that the voices of those with lived experience are always present in their Built for Zero team as an affirmation of this belief.

Because working with young adults with lived experience has been so impactful, Spokane has started to work with people with lived experience for other subpopulations as well.

According to Matt, Spokane has always had a vision for wanting to do authentic youth and young adult collaboration but has not always had the resources or tools to do so in a way that is consistent and impactful.

Thankfully resources like state ACI Funding, which was recently renewed by Governor Inslee and the legislature, allows for communities to have extra funds dedicated to bringing those with lived experience to the table. 

In Spokane this means ensuring that young people, including those on the Youth Advisory Board, who contribute their time and expertise are always compensated. Other ways that state funding supports Spokane include: 

1. Adding additional resources to the data collection team. By participating in the ACI, achieving quality data and using continuous improvement science to drive reductions in homelessness other populations such as single adults and families are benefitting as well. Spokane has begun work to build By-Name Lists for all populations based on the learnings and tools developed through the ACI.

2. Fully funding the in-reach team. The in-reach team is the first point of contact for youth and young adults already experiencing homelessness in Spokane. The team is made up of a diverse group of members across several systems, including juvenile justice, education, local government, and others. 

The Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) has also made it so youth and young adults don’t have to participate in systems to get help. Because they don’t have to go through systemic hurdles, young people can get help quickly through the CDF. This allows Spokane to do preventive work to keep young peoples from experiencing homelessness and adding to an already backlogged system. 

The success of the CDF in Spokane for youth and young adults has inspired Spokane County to do their own version of the CDF for other populations at risk of homelessness.

In only three years, the ACI has worked with Spokane to plan and implement some important changes to the structure and resource pool of the homeless youth and young adult system. Because of these changes, Matt Davis and the Spokane team believe that reaching “Yes to Yes” and ending youth and young adult homelessness in Spokane by the end of 2022 is in reach.

May 2021: Letter from the Executive Director

The 2021 legislative session recently ended, and we are thankful that funding for the Anchor Community Initiative (ACI) is in the final budget! This funding total is $8 million– $4 million for pre-existing communities and $4 million for ACI expansion. The funding is ongoing and not one time, which is a remarkable endorsement from the legislature for the ACI model. No young person should experience homelessness, but if they do– we hope that it will be rare, brief and one time. 

Thank you to our champions in the House and Senate– Representatives Timm Ormsby, Nicole Macri, Lisa Callan and Frank Chopp, and Senators Andy Billig, Christine Rolfes, June Robinson, T’wina Nobles and Jeannie Darneille. Thank you to the First Lady and Co-Chair of A Way Home Washington, Trudi Inslee for your leadership and support, as well as to Governor Jay Inslee for ensuring that ACI support was part of his budget from the onset of session. Also, many thanks to each and every one of you who came to our weekly legislative community updates and contacted your legislators. Your support has been invaluable and because of you, the ACI will continue to be stronger than ever. 

In other news, the ACI is making great progress in our original communities of Spokane, Walla Walla, Yakima and Pierce counties. I am very proud of the coaching and data support that our staff are providing to Anchor Communities. I am also proud of the way that the communities continue to show up and find new, creative and innovative ways to respond to systemic inadequacies. Youth and young adults are showing up in many different parts of the work and doing so in partnership with service providers to reduce the number of young people experiencing homelessness. 

Over the last several years, the communities have made amazing progress to reach their goal of ending youth homelessness by the end of next year.

Spokane County service providers doubled housing placements in October and have been sustaining that increase over the past five months. Spokane now has staff dedicated to outreach with system partners (such as schools and behavioral health) to prevent homelessness.

Walla Walla County has diversion resources and street outreach for the first time ever as a result of ACI state funding. They have also started reduction efforts through the use of ‘case conferencing’ with youth and young adults who have been identified by real-time, quality data as experiencing homeless.

Yakima County is collecting SOGIE (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity & Expression) data for all populations to better understand how they can serve the most vulnerable populations. They were also the first to come up with an idea for how to use creative funds to address homelessness for students through A Way Home Washington’s Student Stability Innovation Grants process.

Pierce County has built a custom data transformation tool to enable service providers to more accurately track and use data. They also have the most people trained across their system to facilitate access to the Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF)- a program designed to help young people  get quick access to funds and receive case management geared towards helping them find innovative and unique solutions to housing.

All four communities have improved their data collection and reached quality, real-time data for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, and all have Youth Advisory Boards informing service providers and other professionals.

Through the CDF, 161 youth and young adult households across the four Anchor Communities have been diverted away from the homelessness system since it was launched in September 2020. 

In early 2021, we launched the Student Stability Innovation Grants program to address student homelessness and communities are already using it to serve this population.

There’s more to come over the next two years as our original four communities near their goal, and as we begin the process of expanding to a new set of communities across the state. Thank you for being a part of this journey!

Sincerely,

 

Julie Patiño,

Executive Director of A Way Home Washington

April 2021: Letter from the Executive Director

The last 12 months have been extremely challenging. So many individuals have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. At the center of A Way Home Washington’s work – preventing and ending youth and young adult homelessness – we have seen increased barriers for young people navigating an already complex system.

In our four Anchor Communities – Spokane, Yakima, Walla Walla and Pierce counties – we see the impact of COVID on young people, socially, mentally, economically and physically. Distancing from loved ones, not being able to attend class in-person, 6-foot restrictions at shelters and many other emerging policies have had a direct impact on young people experiencing homelessness. We also see COVID’s impact on service providers as they continue to carry out their duties with passion and to provide support to YYA experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

Our public systems have been challenged to be flexible and respond quickly to COVID. Because of that, we hope that LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer+) and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) young people experiencing homelessness are not left to fall through the cracks of these systems.

Even still, we are optimistic about the future. In the Anchor Communities, we are seeing a flood of support from service providers, private philanthropy, and local governments. Youth and young adults continue to show up to Youth Advisory Board (YAB) meetings and Anchor Community Initiative Core Team meetings to provide feedback and input on processes and systemic changes. Our staff have adapted to remote work, and are working hard to assist communities with finding solutions to these complex issues.

We are also encouraged by the news from Olympia – thanks to your advocacy, renewed funding has been secured for the four communities, keeping us on track to reach “functional zero” by the end of next year. It also seems likely that the Anchor Community Initiative will expand to a new cohort of communities, with other counties in the state building upon the resources and lessons learned of the first four.

Because of these efforts, It’s very clear to me that all of us are here and ready to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness by helping Washington reach a “Yes to Yes” system. 

In closing, I want to share a quote from Azia Ruff, our ACI Coaching and Improvement Coordinator. She has said, “If the system isn’t working for youth and young adults, then the system isn’t working.” These words help center me, and keep all of us focused on why we do this work, as we move further into 2021 and closer to our goal of ending youth homelessness in Washington state. 

Sincerely,

 

Julie Patiño,

Executive Director of A Way Home Washington