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!
Executive Director of A Way Home Washington