On March 12, the legislative session concluded with many victories for the movement to end youth and young adult homelessness. I’m grateful to our legislative champions who passed all our policy and budget priorities. At a time when people experiencing homelessness, including youth and young adults, are especially vulnerable to a public health crisis, we are reminded that our communities are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us. I am confident that these investments and policies will strengthen our state:
- The state budget includes $500,000 towards the Centralized Diversion Fund, a pool of flexible funds communities can access to help young people cover expenses that lead to securing housing. This is an exciting opportunity to match the funding we have secured from private philanthropy for innovative solutions to prevent and end a young person’s episode of homelessness. We are working with the Office of Homeless Youth and key legislators to ensure this funding is directed toward the Anchor Communities per the intent of the legislature.
- HB 1175 passed, granting greater protection to commercially sexually exploited children. This bill finally sets in law that there is no such thing as a child prostitute, and effective January 1, 2024 youth under 18 will no longer be charged with prostitution. We have paved the way to create a statewide system that says “yes” to young people who are caught in the nightmare of sexual exploitation. We will continue to advocate for additional funding to provide these young people the full range of supports needed as they heal and return to their communities.
- HB 2873 passed, re-establishing the family reconciliation services (FRS) program. The program will ensure families have access to culturally relevant early intervention and supports in their communities, effectively strengthening families before they become involved in child welfare, juvenile justice, or homelessness systems.
- Our state strengthened protections for young people in need of behavioral heath treatment through additional funding and extending the Children’s Mental Health Workgroup. Our 2018 report found that two-thirds of young people experiencing homelessness within a year of exiting a public system of care came from inpatient behavioral health treatment. These investments will ensure that our state is better equipped so that no young person will exit a public system of care to homelessness and strategically prioritizes work to support these young people.
- The state budget includes $1 million to provide 15 transitional shelter beds for youth 16-17 who are not dependents of the state. Currently, a third of minors who exited HOPE beds had no permanent place to stay within 30 days. This investment will help and close this system gap, reduce the horrible pattern of youth “shelter hopping,” and support finding safe, stable, long-term housing for youth.
We’re sincerely appreciative of all the folks around the state who supported and advocated for our legislative agenda. Thank you for every call, email, and tweet to your elected officials, ensuring they kept young people’s needs front of mind. Thank you to partners in our Anchor Communities for travelling to Olympia with us to meet with your elected officials and tell them why these investments and policies are important in your communities.
We are also deeply grateful to our legislators who made these policies and investments possible. Help us thank them via email and tweet and encourage their continued support.