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.

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

Zooming Along: The 2021 Legislative Session & A Way Home Washington

We recently received great news for the future of the Anchor Community Initiative – and it’s all because of you. For the past two months, you’ve been organizing, contacting your legislators, and making your voices heard. And our champions in the legislature were listening.

Both the Senate and House have joined Governor Inslee and included an expansion of the Anchor Community Initiative (ACI) in their budgets. It is very likely this will be in the final budget passed by both chambers – with this funding, the ACI can expand to additional communities across Washington.

At the same time, both budgets include renewed funding for the original four Anchor Communities, meaning that the work can continue in Spokane, Pierce, Yakima, and Walla Walla counties. We are on our way to reaching “yes to yes” and ending youth and young adult homelessness in these four communities by the end of next year.

We have only reached this point because of the power of your organizing and advocacy. Every time you sent an email to your legislators, attended a meeting, shared a tweet, or spoke to your community, you were moving ACI expansion closer to reality. Just last week, we were honored to have two rallies attended by dozens of supporters from across Washington who heard from First Lady Trudi Inslee, our legislative champions, and young advocates.

Your input and feedback is one of the most powerful and impactful tools there is in influencing the legislature. So, thank you for using your voice on behalf of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. You made a difference!

While we are celebrating the positive budget news this week, the work isn’t over. There is still a month of legislative session, and we have to keep the pressure on to make sure the ACI stays in the budget all the way to final passage. Now, we can thank our champion legislators and urge them to keep up the fight. Senators Christine Rolfes, June Robinson, Andy Billig, Jeannie Darneille, and T’wina Nobles, and Representatives Timm Ormsby, Lisa Callan, Frank Chopp, and Tarra Simmons deserve our thanks!

If you’re able, send a quick message thanking our champions and urging them to keep up the fight on Anchor Community Initiative expansion in the final budget.

Other updates and thoughts: The 2021 legislative session has been “zooming” along – literally and metaphorically. This being the first fully virtual session, including committee meetings, floor action and meetings with legislators, it has been an exercise in modern technology. Perhaps the refrain, “You’re on mute,” has never been heard so often by so many. 

Also notable about the 2021 legislative session is the incredible impact of the diversity of lawmakers within the body. Having so many legislators who are people of color, combined with the impact of being all-virtual and eliminating barriers to travel to Olympia, has resulted in many more people of color testifying on proposed bills that have informed the debate in a powerfully positive way. Bills such as law enforcement reform, landlord-tenant relations, and adding a progressive capital gains tax have been front and center with the diversity of public testimony being exponentially more interesting and valuable than in years past.

As we march forward these last few weeks of the 2021 session, we do so convinced that the best way to end adult homelessness is to end youth and young adult homelessness. We are building a “Yes to Yes” system in Washington so that when young people say “Yes, I need support,” their local communities can say in return “Yes, come inside for safe housing and a path forward”.  Come join us!  Young people and families are relying on all of US. Thank you for all that you do.

Our 2019 Highlights

Our Executive Director, Jim Theofelis, has dedicated his life to helping young people, as an advocate, a clinician and a leader in the movement to reform foster care and end youth and young adult homelessness. He reflects on what 2019 meant for A Way Home Washington and the movement to end youth and young adult homelessness.

Throughout the year, the A Way Home Washington staff has been working hard to end youth and young adult homelessness. There are community leaders to meet, data to analyze, communities to coach and press releases to write. As 2019 comes to a close, I took a pause to think about what we’ve accomplished this year. I’m blown away by the dedicated, mission-driven people I am proud to call colleagues and partners. In no particular order, here are my top ten 2019 highlights:

1.       The momentum in the Anchor Communities. A year after we launched the initiative, we hosted update events in each community, and we got to see how much the movement has grown across the state.

From Walla Walla to Yakima, all the community updates were full of energy!

2.       A strong team. Our staff has grown to be nine people strong. I’m humbled to work alongside these bright, passionate and hardworking individuals every day. They keep me sharp!

3.       $8.5 million for the Office of Homeless Youth. We joined the voices of advocates around the state who believe in funding the Office of Homeless Youth. Our advocacy paid off when the state legislature included $8.5 million for OHY in the budget, including $4 million for the Anchor Community Initiative!

4.       The passage of SB 5290. Young people deserve services, not detention. I am in awe of all the courageous young people who advocated to pass this bill, and it was an honor to be in the room when Governor Inslee signed it into law.

We presented an award to The Mockingbird Society for their leadership in advocating for SB 5290

5.       Enhancing our public profile. You may have seen a lot more social media posts, blogs and newsletters from us this year. I’m pleased to see us flexing our communications muscle so that more people can learn about our work. Sign up to our newsletter for monthly updates!

6.       Strong partnerships. The Anchor Community Initiative has rallied communities around a North Star, and efforts like the Host Home Coalition have brought together key players around the state around important issues. I’m proud that we can help bring partners together and lead the charge against youth and young adult homelessness.

7.       Young people’s leadership. I’ve always believed that the perspectives and expertise of young people with lived experience are integral to finding solutions. Young people are part of all our Anchor Community teams because without them, we don’t have a movement.

8.       Funding the Anchor Community Initiative through 2022. Thanks to the generosity of our philanthropic partners, we can sustain the infrastructure of the Anchor Community Initiative through 2022. That means that whenever we receive additional funding from the legislature or donors, we can pour that money right into service in the communities.

9.       Convening our partners. In October we had our annual Anchor Community Initiative convening and State Table. Seeing our partners from around the state in one room, putting our heads together to end youth and young adult homelessness, was a true joy.

Taking a page out of Nonprofit AF and adding a cute animal picture from the picnic!

10.   Picnicking with our furry friends. Even though it was a busy year, it’s important that we find time to rest and recharge our energies. I enjoyed spending a few moments of camaraderie with my colleagues at our summer picnic, and meeting their families of the human and canine varieties!

This work we’re doing, it’ll have a monumental impact on the lives of young people. Sustainable change, the type of change that will last for seven generations, is not easy to achieve. When I think about what it will take to end  youth and young adult homelessness, I think about all the courageous individuals and organizations who have said “Yes” to the work. Thank you for all that you do!