We have seen positive momentum to address youth homelessness in our state and across our country. Collectively, we have better data and research, more knowledge about innovative programs and practices, and increased government capacity and commitment to address youth homelessness at the local, state, and national levels. The Raikes Foundation is proud to be a contributor to these community-led efforts with support from other foundations, service providers, policymakers, and young people. We all recognize that our journey is not finished, but we are on our way to making youth and young adult homelessness a rare, brief, and a one-time occurrence. Here are some of our proudest accomplishments to date.
Supporting a coordinated community response to address youth homelessness in King County
Since 2011, we have been supporting a coordinated community response to address youth homelessness in King County, which got a big boost in 2017 when the county was one of 10 communities selected by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Agency to be a Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) site. The $5.4 million in annual grantmaking support will allow our region to pilot innovative strategies to address youth homelessness and position King County to effectively end homeless for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness by end of 2020.
Creating the Office of Homeless Youth in Washington state
Along with community partners, we helped drive the creation of Washington’s Office of Homeless Youth (OHY), an agency charged with leading statewide efforts to prevent youth homelessness. Since its creation the office has issued a plan to effectively end youth homelessness in the state, helped providers implement best practices for homeless youth, and funded efforts to eliminate the practice of discharging youth from public systems into homelessness.
Launching statewide campaign to end youth homelessness in Washington state
Working with other funders, we helped launch A Way Home Washington (AWHWA), a campaign to end youth and young adult homelessness in our state. In 2017, AWHWA worked closely with Rapid Results Institute and the communities in King, Pierce, and Spokane counties to house more than 600 young people as part of a 100-Day Challenge. In the fall of 2018, AWHWA launched the Anchor Communities Initiative—a project to demonstrate that it is possible effectively end youth homelessness in communities across our state—with the ultimate goal of ending youth homelessness statewide by 2022.
Supporting national efforts to end youth homelessness
In partnership with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, a leading research institution on youth and families, we supported Voices of Youth Count, a first-of-its-kind research initiative on the prevalence of youth homelessness nationwide. Using innovative research methods, Chapin Hall’s data provides an in-depth look at how and why youth experience homelessness, where homeless youth are, and what strategies we can use to end youth homelessness.
We also supported the launch of A Way Home America (AWHA), an effort that brings together diverse stakeholders nationwide with the shared goal of preventing and ending youth homelessness in the United States.
Supporting efforts to address student homelessness
With the America’s Promise Alliance, Schoolhouse Connection, Civic Enterprises, and the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, we supported the launch of the Education Leads Home campaign. The campaign has three goals: Ensure students who experience homeless have equal access to early childhood education by 2026; achieve a 90 percent graduation rate for homeless students by 2030; and reach a 60 percent post-secondary attainment rate for homeless students by 2034.
Working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Vulcan Philanthropy, and the Campion Foundation, we also supported the creation of Schoolhouse Washington, an organization that addresses student homelessness in Washington state. As a result of our collective efforts, there are more resources, improved policies, and important lessons learned on what we can do to prevent students and their families from experiencing homelessness.
Driving innovation in prevention and crisis response
- In King County, we’ve invested in several projects to improve the crisis response system and to prevent young people from becoming homeless. We’ve invested in diversion programs that keep at-risk youth housed, as well as in Host Homes, which provide an alternative housing solution for youth who need short-term assistance.
- We've supported legal services for youth and young adults which have been shown to be effective in eliminating systemic barriers to stable housing.
- In Washington state, we co-invested in a three-county project to eliminate the practice of discharging young people from public systems, like foster care or the justice system, into homelessness.
Supporting youth advocacy
We support the Mockingbird Society’s Youth Advocates for Ending Homelessness program, which trains and supports current and formerly homeless youth to speak publicly and directly with policymakers about the needs of homeless youth. These youth advocates have been critical to advancing local and statewide efforts on youth homelessness.
Supporting equitable outcomes
Not all young people are equally at risk of experiencing homelessness. Overwhelmingly, young people who experience homelessness are LGBTQ, youth of color, or both, and we believe that if we’re going to end youth homelessness, we have to address structural and institutional racism and inequities. We have invested in several efforts to better understand the institutional and structural barriers that hold back marginalized youth including:
- A youth of color needs assessment to better understand the needs of homeless youth of color;
- Schoolhouse Washington's work with the Equity in Education Coalition to better identify the needs of students of color experiencing homelessness;
- A national summit with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on racial equity and homelessness, an effort to support communities to explicitly integrate racial equity in their efforts to address homelessness.