Homeless youth are focus of new actions

By Kim Justice, executive director of the Office of Homeless Youth at the Department of Commerce

Young people should be studying, spending time with friends, discovering who they are and finding their place in the world.

Yet far too often, homeless youth and young adults don’t have those opportunities because they worry about where to sleep, how to stay safe and how to survive.

In Washington, more than 13,000 people between the ages of 12 and 24 have no safe, stable place to call home. We are working to change that by addressing the complex needs of homeless youth. One way to do that is through our partnership with Gov. Jay Inslee and First Lady Trudi Inslee.

At a press conference Tuesday, Trudi Inslee joined the state’s Office of Homeless Youth and A Way Home Washington to announce a directive from the governor and actions to prevent and end youth homelessness in communities throughout the state.

(L –R) Sen. David Frockt, Rep. Jake Fey, Kim Justice, Trudi Inslee, and Tricia Raikes. Angel Gardner, speaking at the podium. Jan. 24, 2017 (Official Governor’s Office Photo)

Based on recommendations in the Office of Homeless Youth’s 2016 Report, Gov. Inslee called for a multidisciplinary work group, led by the Office of Homeless Youth, to be the forum for developing an integrated, consistent statewide approach to reducing youth homelessness and supporting families.

The Office of Homeless Youth’s Report is based on a yearlong collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders, including young people who have experienced homelessness, the Office of Homeless Youth Advisory Committee and visits with community leaders throughout the state.

Watch the full press conference here:

The report highlights three immediate actions with potential for significant improvements:

  • Ensure that youth exiting public systems of care (foster care, the juvenile justice system or treatment facilities) have a safe and stable place to go.
  • Invest in crisis intervention for families experiencing instability.
  • Improve education and employment outcomes for homeless youth.

During the event, Angel Gardner, a formerly homeless young woman who is now a youth advocate, shared her story.

“We want the same things as everyone else,” Angel said. “We want to be safe, we want to be warm and we want opportunities to go to school and find jobs so we can support ourselves.”

Angel was joined by Sen. David Frockt, Rep. Jake Fey, Tricia Raikes of the Raikes Foundation and Trudi Inslee.

“I have toured the state and have spoken with many young people who have shared their experiences with homelessness and their ideas for how to lessen it,” she said. “Young people told me what they want is simple: They want stability in their lives and have a healthy, productive adulthood. I’m glad to see that their words shaped the report’s recommendations.”

First Lady Trudi Inslee speaks on youth homelessness. Jan. 24, 2017 (Official Governor’s Office Photo)

We must work to ensure that homeless youth have a place to live and systems to support their needs.

Wouldn’t you want the same for your children and their peers?