Team members hold balloons at the conclusion of the 100 Day Challenges
August 11, 2017
Washington State’s 100 Day Challenges prove we can end youth homelessness
By Katie Hong
Director, Special Initiatives

Over the past 100 days, community teams in Washington State have been working around the clock to house as many homeless young people as possible. The 100 Day Challenges in Spokane, Pierce, and King counties were designed to generate innovative solutions to youth homelessness by empowering front line staff and disrupting “business as usual,” and I couldn’t be happier to report that the project was a resounding success. 

Collectively, Spokane, Pierce, and King Counties helped more than 600 youth and young adults find safe and stable housing in 100 days. That’s roughly six placements a day—nearly 50 percent more than what the 100 Day Challenge teams in Austin, Cleveland, and Los Angeles achieved last year. And that’s not a knock on those communities, it’s a recognition that we’re learning more and getting better at ending homelessness for young people. 

Our communities did not accomplish this incredible feat by accident; it was the result of explicit intention, focus, commitment, and action. Housing more than 600 young people required a willingness to do business in a new way, and it was the result of team members’ willingness to take on a lot of additional work on top of an already hectic job in serving vulnerable young people. 

There are so many reasons why we're grateful and proud of these teams, but one that stands out is that because of this work our communities now know that we can set audacious goals and achieve them. The key to driving meaningful change is setting ambitious, quantifiable, and time-bound goals because some is not a number and soon is not a time. We all aspire to end youth and young adult homelessness, but too often our grand plans lack quantifiable goals, and they lack deadlines. But the 100 Day Challenge teams have proven that when we really challenge ourselves we can accomplish so much more than we thought possible, and we can make meaningful progress toward our ultimate goal of ending youth homelessness. 

There are many barriers to ending homelessness, but one major, and often unconscious, barrier is a belief that ending homelessness isn’t possible. There are many who believe that homelessness is a terrible problem, but that it's inevitable issue that will always be with us.

What our communities accomplished in just 100 days shows that not only is it possible to end youth homelessness in Washington State, it’s possible to end youth homelessness across the country. Our communities are diverse, they have different resources, different problems and different solutions—but they were all successful. If communities as varied as ours in Washington State can make meaningful progress toward ending youth homelessness, then any community in our country can. Even better, the lessons we’ve learned are available to inform the next communities who take on 100 Day Challenges. 

It’s hard to overstate what these teams have accomplished. The Raikes Foundation is grateful and proud to have partnered with A Way Home Washington, the Rapid Results Institute, the Schultz Family Foundation, and the Spokane, Pierce and King communities on this 100-day journey. We’re proud to be part of this movement across our state and our country to say “yes,” we can end youth homelessness.