Our 2020 Legislative Priorities

Recently, the CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Nan Roman, shared the three elements she’s observed in communities that have successfully ended homelessness: data, funding, and buy-in from political leadership. Throughout the year, we work hard to make sure communities around the state have all three of these elements. During the legislative session, we are zoned in on securing state funding that goes towards effective solutions and working alongside elected officials who support policies that benefit young people.

Our Advocacy Day in 2019

The 2019 legislative session was full of victories for the movement to end youth and young adult homelessness. The state budget included $8.5 million for the Office of Homeless Youth, which included $4 million for the Anchor Community Initiative. We saw important policy changes, like the end of juvenile detention for status offenses and the requirement that no public system of care discharges young people into homelessness.

In 2020, we return to Olympia to advocate for:

·       The Centralized Diversion Fund (CDF) – Our goal has always been to increase communities’ capacity, so when a young person says “Yes, I need help,” their community can say “Yes, we can help.” The CDF is a flexible fund that organizations around the state can access to help young people stay housed, whether that means helping meet a deposit on an apartment or helping with a car repair to help a young person stay employed and make their rent. To ensure the CDF launches with ample funds to support communities, we will advocate for our legislators to include $500,000 towards the CDF in the state budget.

·       Protecting Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) – Young people in the foster care system make up a high percentage of CSEC. We will advocate for the creation of two receiving centers to help CSEC receive treatment and return to their communities, and to keep youth from facing criminal prostitution charges.

·       Family Reunification Services Program – When families receive the support they need before they become involved in systems like child welfare or juvenile justice, we strengthen families and prevent homelessness. We will advocate for increased capacity and expertise in culturally relevant prevention and early intervention services.

·       Behavioral Health Funding – Our 2018 study found that 1,200 young people experienced homelessness within 12 months of exiting inpatient behavioral health treatment that year. We will advocate for funding to ensure that young people exiting treatment have safe housing and follow-up care.

·       Extending Children’s Mental Health Workgroup (CMHWG) – The CMHWG advises the legislature on improving behavioral health services and strategies for children, youth, young adults and their families. The work group has identified barriers and opportunities to ensure these services are accessible, effective, timely, culturally and linguistically relevant and supported by evidence. The group sunsets in 2020; based on its proven efficacy and leadership we will advocate to extend its lifespan.

In addition, we will keep advocating for the necessary budget to successfully implement the policies passed in 2019. We will also support our partners’ legislative priorities, like the Office of Homeless Youth’s request for housing for minors and The Mockingbird Society’s work to help youth and young adults experiencing homelessness access IDs.

We are deeply appreciative of all our supporters who contacted their elected officials in 2019 and urged them to champion the needs of young people. Sign up to our email alerts to stay up to date on all our advocacy actions!

Anchor Communities Receive $4 Million

During the 2019 legislative session, we were overjoyed that the Office of Homeless Youth (OHY) budget included $4 million for the Anchor Community Initiative. Over the past few months, organizations in the Anchor Communities submitted proposals to OHY requesting funding for services in the community. Here’s how these funds will make an impact in each community:

Pierce County

Pierce County will be able to expand their existing outreach team, creating a 24/7 emergency hotline, training staff in diversion and gaining access to coordinated entry. The community will also be able to establish a young adult shelter, which previously had no permanent location.

Spokane

New outreach efforts put forth will be able to more efficiently identify young people experiencing homelessness in the public school system and behavioral health treatment programs and provide resources to quickly house them. Volunteers of America and the City of Spokane will add 10 new units of transitional housing for young adults, including units that provide medium to long-term rental assistance (usually 18 to 24 months) and support services to help young adults develop the independent living skills needed to secure and maintain permanent housing.

Walla Walla

Previously, young people in Walla Walla had access to HOPE beds through Catholic Charities and young adult long-term housing through Blue Mountain Action Council (BMAC). Now BMAC will be able to add housing capacity for young adults and create an outreach team to better connect with young people.

Yakima

New funding will allow Rod’s House to open a shelter and increase outreach coverage and drop-in services. Catholic Charities will be able to increase young adult housing and Yakima Neighborhood Health Services will increase LGBTQ+ support services.

We’re excited to see these funds building capacity in Anchor Communities as we continue our work to end youth and young adult homelessness!

Celebrating the Legislative Session Together

The 2019 legislative session gave us many reasons to celebrate. From full funding for the Anchor Community Initiative to ending juvenile detention for non-criminal offenses, the legislature delivered victory after victory for youth and young adults. Our hearts are full, so we decided to spread the cheer with a celebration for the elected officials and youth advocates that made it all possible.

You can watch the full livestream of the celebration here, or enjoy the highlights:

First Lady Trudi Inslee inspired everyone to keep up the good work with a rousing speech. We are truly grateful to have a steadfast advocate in Mrs. Inslee and appreciate all the work she does to keep young people front and center.

“Washington is in a unique position to make a meaningful impact on ending youth and young adult homelessness thanks to programs like the Anchor Community Initiative.”

 

Sarah Spier, from our Spokane Anchor Community, highlighted how important it is for different systems of care to work together.

“The Anchor Community Initiative has helped us come together and use our resources intentionally to create a community where no young person has to live without stable housing.”

 

Roel Williams, Peer Advisor for A Way Home Washington, reiterated the importance of organizations like The Mockingbird Society and A Way Home Washington to give young people the support they need to thrive.

“The Mockingbird Society’s continued push to advocate for bills that positively impact young people and the visionary Anchor Community Initiative are putting us on the path to end youth homelessness.”

 

And finally, we presented awards to key partners who have been instrumental in advocating for youth and young adults.

Representative Chopp, for 20 years of service as Speaker
The Mockingbird Society, for leadership on SB 5290
Laurie Lippold, for her continued advocacy and leadership

 

We can’t end this post without expressing our deep gratitude to each and every one of our supporters. You keep the movement going, and every step we take towards ending youth and young adult homelessness is only possible because of your commitment. Thank you for everything you do!

From all our staff, thank you! Images courtesy of Michael B. Maine.

Session Highlights: Funding and Expanding Services for Youth and Young Adults

The 2019 legislative session included many topics that directly impact our vision of preventing and ending youth and young adult homelessness. With so many important issues at stake, the A Way Home Washington team was a constant presence at our state capitol. We brought in our Anchor Community teams for an Advocacy Day and even spent a snow day in Olympia.

Our Executive Director, Jim, and Advocacy Coordinator, Matt

 

We were humbled to see an outpouring of support for young people from partner organizations and legislators, and we are proud of the young people who bravely advocated for their peers. Here’s what we accomplished together in the 2019 legislative session:

  • The Office of Homeless Youth (OHY) was funded at the $8.5 million level. This includes $4 million for the Anchor Community Initiative, our flagship project, and $1.25 million for the Arlington Drive Youth Campus. Anchor Community Initiative funds will be split evenly between Pierce County, Spokane, Yakima and Walla Walla for these communities to invest in services for youth and young adults.
  • The Washington Youth and Families Fund and the Homeless Student Stability Program maintained their base funding of $4 million each. The Homeless Student Stability Program received an additional $157,000. 
  • The Senate passed SB 5290, eliminating juvenile detention for non-criminal offenses, such as truancy and running away. Youth are less likely to come forward and request the services they need when they fear the possibility of detention. Now, youth will be able to request these services without fear.
  • The House passed HB 1657, expanding access to HOPE Center beds and requiring at least two youth representatives on the Office of Homeless Youth Advocacy Committee. This provides youth experiencing homelessness additional service options and fosters a youth-centered approach to our work.

     

    Governor Inslee signs HB 1657

     

    These legislative victories position our state closer to preventing and ending youth and young adult homelessness. We are deeply thankful to every person who elevated the issue during the legislative session, especially to all the advocates who showed up at the capitol and all the legislators who did right by our young people. We also want to give a special thank you to  Advocacy Coordinator for the 2019 legislative session, Matt Kanter, who brought innovation and passion to our advocacy efforts. What were your favorite moments from the 2019 legislative session?