April 8, 2020
New Fund Launches to Support Homeless Youth in Washington State Through COVID-19 Crisis


Building Changes and Raikes Foundation call on donors and philanthropies to support vulnerable communities impacted by pandemic 

Today, Building Changes and the Raikes Foundation launched the Washington State Student and Youth Homelessness COVID-19 Response Fund. With schools now closed through the end of the year, the Fund aims to ensure that communities impacted by COVID-19 are able to respond rapidly to the urgent and growing needs of homeless students and youth across Washington state.

​As many as 50,000 students and unaccompanied youth experience homelessness each year in Washington, and 62 percent of students who experience homelessness are people of color. As COVID-19 threatens to push even more young people into unsafe living situations while potentially causing long-term disruptions to their education, the pandemic is exacerbating an already precarious situation.

For many, schools and community-based organizations are their only lifeline to critical services, meals, housing, stability and safety. With COVID-19 causing massive disruptions to education and youth-focused systems across the state, students and youth experiencing homelessness and housing instability need additional supports to guarantee their health, well-being and education in this crisis. Research shows a high school diploma is one of the most effective ways to prevent youth from experiencing homelessness as adults, making it imperative to keep as many students safe and on track to graduate as possible. 

The fund is currently being supported by the Raikes Foundation, Vitalogy Foundation and Campion Foundation, and is actively pursuing additional funding to meet the growing and urgent needs of Washington’s young people. 

“Washington State is experiencing one of the greatest challenges we’ll ever see in our lifetimes. Everyone is grappling with the devastating impact of COVID-19, but it is critical that we reach students and young people who have been suddenly cut off from their schools and support systems,” said Tricia Raikes, co-founder of the Raikes Foundation. “By working with our government and community partners, we can ensure our most vulnerable young people don’t have their futures derailed by this crisis.” 

The Fund is intended to enhance public funding already available at the federal, state and local levels. Building Changes will work in coordination with the state Office of Homeless Youth (OHY) to distribute funds to organizations and school districts to meet needs that public dollars cannot. 

Schools and youth-focused community organizations will be eligible to receive funds. These organizations - which are uniquely suited to reach young people – are a critical component to the state’s response. Research shows that when school staff have flexible dollars to support the diverse needs of students and their families, it leads to improved academic outcomes for students who are experiencing homelessness. Funds will be designated to provide grantees with flexibility to respond to both immediate and long-term challenges.

“People are overwhelmed by the COVID-19 crisis – we’re seeing it everywhere. But we started this Fund to show more people what they can do to help,” said D’Artagnan Caliman, Executive Director of Building Changes. “We started the Washington State Student and Youth Homelessness COVID-19 Response Fund to help donors and philanthropies designate resources to those who need them most. We hope launching this fund will encourage more people to give and protect young people who are vulnerable from falling through the cracks.”