New 100-Day Challenge Dashboards Provide a First Look at Progress

By Jim Theofelis, Executive Director

A young woman living on the streets in Spokane shared with me recently that most young people experiencing homelessness are trying hard to find stability and safety in their lives. They are not choosing to be homeless, but rather are searching for resources. Over the course of 100 days, three regions in Washington state—including the Spokane area—are working hard and smart to address the barriers that prevent youth and young adults from finding housing.

When Spokane, Pierce, and King counties kicked off the 100-Day Challenges in April, many people couldn’t have imagined the incredible progress their teams would be making across Washington state—from starting conversations and changing systems, to improving the lives of young people in each community.

The King County, Pierce County, and Spokane teams are already changing lives and making a real difference. By helping young people experiencing homelessness find safe and stable housing, local leaders are sending a signal that communities CAN take ownership and turn the tide on youth and young adult homelessness.

At the start of the 100-Day Challenges, on April 20, each team set a specific goal. These challenges were audacious, but attainable. We knew we weren’t going to solve homelessness in 100 days, but we pushed ourselves instead to ask what’s possible and examine how we could do things differently to expedite progress and support and empower our young people.

As we pass the halfway point of the Challenges, we are excited to share initial region-specific and aggregate data from the three teams. Dashboards that provide a snapshot of each team’s goal and progress can be found here, on our 100-Day Challenges page. Currently, these dashboards include data up to Day 50 of the Challenges, and they will be updated periodically through early August.

Each team is putting in the hard work to finish strong, and we anticipate even greater momentum over the remaining weeks. In fact, the Rapid Results Institute—the organization coaching our teams—has found that the first 50 days of other challenges are often spent laying the foundation necessary to accelerate progress over the final 50. I am thrilled about the advancement each team is making toward its numeric challenges. And I’m even more encouraged by the ways in which they are examining—and in some situations actually changing—system policies that remove barriers and get more young people housed more quickly.

We also know that the 100-Day Challenges are about so much more than the work communities are accomplishing over the course of nearly four months. This is really about where we go on Day 101 and thereafter. That’s why we’re excited that conversations are happening about why young people become unstably housed in the first place, and how we can empower them to overcome those experiences. And everyone—at the provider, policy, and public level—is learning that it is possible to prevent and end youth homelessness in our state.

I’m so proud of these three communities for saying “Yes” to their challenges. At A Way Home Washington, we envision a future in which a young person who says, “Yes, I want help finding a safe place to sleep,” or a family that says, “Yes, we want help to keep our teenager safe,” our communities will have the systems and services in place to respond with an enthusiastic “Yes!” and meet those needs.

These 100-Day Challenges are an important step in that direction, and I hope you’ll continue to support our teams so that ALL youth and young adults in Washington state can find their way home.



Challenge Accepted: 100-Day Challenges to Tackle Youth and Young Adult Homelessness

By Jim Theofelis, Executive Director

You may know Washington as the Evergreen state, but when it comes to spirit, entrepreneurship, and dedication to preventing and ending youth and young adult homelessness, I say we are the “CAN DO!” state!

On April 18 and 19, A Way Home Washington (AWHWA) was thrilled to convene teams from Spokane, Pierce, and King counties to launch 100-Day Challenges that will accelerate progress toward our ultimate goal: to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness in Washington state. The teams carrying this important work include young people with lived experience of homelessness, staff from service provider organizations, local government agencies, and other stakeholders from the three regions.

The expert staff from the Rapid Results Institute (RRI) facilitated and engaged the teams in exercises that raised a new level of awareness and excitement, even for seasoned front line advocates who have been addressing this issue for many years. To set their goals, the teams reviewed local data, policies, and resources. They also heard from the Governor and local leaders who encouraged them to be bold, try new things, and remove barriers – in short, to focus on getting young people indoors and on a path to stability and success.

I was so impressed to watch the teams from Pierce, Spokane, and King counties step up and embrace the hope and promise of the Challenges. Collectively, the three communities set goals to house over 700 young people, with a strong emphasis on ensuring youth and young adults of color and young people who identify as LGBTQ have equitable access to support and services.

Each team has returned to its community, and the 100-day clock began counting down on April 20. Please be sure to check our 100-Day Challenges page for updates on the progress made by each of the three communities.

I want to thank our remarkable funders who are supporting the Challenges, including the Raikes Foundation and the Schultz Family Foundation. I also want to thank Governor Jay Inslee for his support and video remarks at the launch event, as well as other local leaders who expressed their support via video and by sending key staff to participate.

We also appreciated the encouraging remarks offered by A Way Home Washington Co-Chairs First Lady Trudi Inslee and Terry Jackson, a youth advocate with The Mockingbird Society. I was touched to hear Terry say, “At A Way Home Washington there is a saying that you might have heard: ‘yes to yes.’ Jim said it before and I just want to come back to it… Say yes to new ideas, yes to positive change. Be inspired to try new things as you take on new challenges.”

That’s why I was especially grateful for members of the three teams who truly accepted the challenge, worked together in their two-day workshop, and represented their community and our state with pride, hard work, and dedication. And finally, a very special thanks to the young people who were members of the three teams who brought their unique insight, wisdom, and lived experience of homelessness to the discussion and planning efforts.

We don’t expect to end all youth and young adult homelessness in these next 100 days. However, we do expect our talented teams will meet their ambitious goals. And throughout the journey, we will all learn more about the resources, policies, and practices our communities need to make it possible for every youth and young adult to find their way home. Families and young people across our state are counting on us.

You can follow the 100-Day Challenges and show your support by sharing #WAChallengeAccepted on Facebook and Twitter.

2017 Legislative Agenda

One of A Way Home Washington’s key strategies to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness is to advocate for reforms and public funding at the state level. We see this as an important way to make sure that Washington state has the programs, services, and resources it needs to help all of our young people find their way home.

In 2017, the Washington state legislative session is scheduled to run for 105 days, from January 9 through April 23. Legislators in Olympia face some tough challenges, including a mandate to fully fund basic education in our state. And as ever, political dynamics are bound to present challenges.

However, A Way Home Washington believes that this is a unique point in time for our state to come together and make positive changes. The Office of Homeless Youth has presented its 2016 Report as a roadmap to creating a statewide system of care. Governor and First Lady Inslee have provided their support and leadership to this cause. And a growing group of partners have joined our movement.

Together, we have developed a bold legislative agenda listing our priorities for 2017. This agenda reflects what we’ve been hearing and learning from communities across the state, and our work to develop tailored solutions that meet their unique needs and circumstances.

We will continue to update this agenda throughout the course of the legislative session. Sign up to receive our newsletter, and share it widely with your network.

A Way Home Washington’s 2017 Legislative Agenda
Click here to download a PDF copy

Ensure that Youth Exiting Public Systems Have A Safe, Stable Place To Go

  • Establish an interagency workgroup or Governor’s cabinet on youth homelessness.
  • HB 1867: Evaluate Extended Foster Care.
  • HB 1816: Improve admission practices for youth entering Crisis Residential Centers and HOPE Beds.

Invest In Crisis Intervention and Diversion From Homelessness

  • Improve and expand family reconciliation and preservation services.
  • Reform status offense laws to reduce the number of youth detained for actions like violating curfew and running away.

Improve Education and Employment Outcomes for Vulnerable Young People

  • SB 5241: Improve high school graduation rates by awarding students with partial or full credit for courses completed at a prior school.
  • Support schools to fully implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act and ensure accountability.
  • Fully implement the Homeless Student Stability Program to connect older youth and unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness to services and housing.
  • Designate a trained staff person in every K-12 public school building that can identify and support students experiencing housing instability and homelessness.
  • Expand Youth Works.

Provide Legal Advocacy for Foster Children and Youth

  • Appoint attorneys to all children and youth in foster care before their first shelter care hearing.

Allocate Sustainable Funding

  • Move funding for the Office of Homeless Youth to Commerce’s base budget.
  • HB 1570: Renew the Document Recording fee without adding a future sunset date. Restrict the requirement that 45% of funding from the Home Security Fund be spent on rental or leasing payments to for-profit entities. (“Washington Housing Opportunities Act.”)
  • Support the Washington Youth and Families Fund.
  • Generate new revenue for the state budget.

Strengthen Statewide Systems of Care

  • HB 1630: Improve data quality by allowing minors experiencing homelessness to provide written consent to share their personally identifying information.
  • HB 1661: Support the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendation to establish a new Department of Children, Youth and Families.

A Way Home Washington’s Executive Director Speaks with KOMO News Radio

KOMO News Radio spoke with A Way Home Washington’s Executive Director, Jim Theofelis, following Governor Jay Inslee’s directive to create an interagency work group on youth homelessness and release of the Office of Homeless Youth’s 2016 report.

“I think that Washington state is positioned to be a national model in really tackling the issue of youth and young adult homelessness,” Theofelis commented. He continued, “What the Governor did today, and the release of the report from the Office of Homeless Youth Programs, really gives us a roadmap forward and gives us the support we need from the public systems to prevent and end youth homelessness.”

Theofelis also highlighted the unique opportunity the Governor’s interagency work group will afford to prevent state systems of care from discharging youth to the streets. “We want to have a safe bed in every community across the state.”

Courtesy of KOMO News Radio. Interview aired on Tuesday, January 24, 2017.