This week, our partners at Schoolhouse Washington released a comprehensive report on the academic outcomes of students experiencing homelessness in Washington state.
While this report verifies the immense challenges that homeless students face and the negative impact instability has on their education, it also includes key findings that can help us support these students in achieving their academic goals. Given that the lack of a high school degree or GED is the single biggest correlative with young adult homelessness, these findings have far reaching implications for advocates and policymakers working in the sector.
A few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that Washington state has been awarded not one, but two federal Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) grants. These grants reaffirm that Washington state is on the right path toward ending youth homelessness and that our state can lead the way for others.
The new grants, totaling more than $7 million annually, will go to Snohomish County and other rural Washington communities to boost efforts to end youth homelessness. This makes Washington state the only state to have three YHDPs (King County is the other recipient), totaling more than $12 million in annual support from HUD to address youth homelessness.
In announcing the grants, HUD cited the language in the application that “Washington State has one of the strongest commitments to addressing youth homelessness in the nation.”
In its most recent session the Washington state legislature continued to build on its goal to end youth homelessness with new laws and funding. The legislative action was bold and strategic and sets the stage for substantial improvements to the lives of young people and their families.
First off, the state took a number of steps to prevent young people from exiting public systems, like child welfare or juvenile justice, to the streets. The legislature ordered that the juvenile justice, behavioral health and child welfare systems must ensure that all youth exiting those systems have stable housing by 2021, and allocated housing funds for youth exiting juvenile prisons. The legislature also strengthened extended foster care, allowing young people to opt in and out depending on their situation, and put an end to the state’s practice of excluding certain high needs youth.
It is hard to imagine an event that better embodies youth empowerment and engagement than the annual Mockingbird Youth Leadership Summit. The Raikes Foundation has long supported the Mockingbird Society, in part because of the organization’s strong commitment to authentically incorporating the voices of young people into its programs and advocacy.
The Mockingbird Youth Leadership Summit brings together young people who have been in foster care, who have experienced homelessness, or both, and provides an important forum for them to present their proposals for improving the systems that serve these populations to policymakers. A staggering number of these proposals have become reality, through tireless research and reworking, and smart, strategic advocacy on the part of these young people.