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.