Homeless Youth. These two words do not belong together. And yet, at least 13,000 young people in Washington State are without a safe and stable place to call home. Many have run from dys- functional and sometimes violent homes, been kicked out for their gender identity or sexual orientation, or separated from their family due to poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, or mental health issues. Yet they all have one thing in common – they are our future. They should grow up to be our next business owners, teachers, and leaders. They have immense potential but face signi cant barriers in realizing their dreams. We must give them the support they need to grow into healthy adulthood and live ful lling lives.
Our state is at a pivotal moment in our efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness. The creation of a state Of ce of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Programs (Of ce of Homeless Youth or OHY) put us on the national map as leaders in this movement. Alongside the of ce are committed advocates, service providers, and philanthropists who have joined together as A Way Home Washington to raise awareness and support solutions to end youth homelessness.
This movement would be hollow without the involve- ment of young people themselves. That’s why youth are at the center of this effort—not just as the object of our efforts, but as key contributors. Our work is stronger when it is informed by the experiences and ideas of young people who have experienced homelessness. They have a right to be involved in decisions that impact their own lives and those of their peers.
This report lays out the best collective thinking on ways the state can make the biggest difference in preventing and ending youth homelessness. There is no silver bullet to solving such a complex issue, but we can leverage what experience and research tell us to make the best decisions today. We must make progress without delay. And we must remain open to continually learning from our experience and adjust- ing accordingly. Our future depends on it.