SEATAC – By car, bus, Amtrak train, ferry, and airplane they came. Young people with lived experience of homelessness gathered in SeaTac from all over the state to participate in a weekend-long summit and evaluate dozens of applications for grants from the state’s Office of Homeless Youth.
These young people took a lead role in reviewing over $15 million in funding requests. They analyzed proposals through the lens of their own personal experience struggling with housing instability and accessing services and programs for support.
“Young people tell me that they are ready to lead…they have energy and they have creative solutions, so we’re here to help make that reality,” said Riannon Bardsley, Statewide Initiatives Manager for the Office of Homeless Youth.
The funding comes from investments made by the state legislature this year. It will support housing for young people who have previously been in foster care, behavioral health services to youth residing in shelters, partnerships with K-12 schools to help students experiencing homelessness, and community-based efforts to ensure that young people exit public systems (such as juvenile justice and foster care) into safe and stable housing.
Their evaluations, alongside those of adult subject matter experts, determined which applicants received funding.
“You need youth and young adults to speak truth to power and to give authentic input.”
“What was really powerful was having young people with lived experience on this magnitude being able to come together and do the work we were able to do to review applications for programs that directly impact them, their peers and their neighbors. For me, that was super powerful and I think it is a best practice. You need youth and young adults to speak truth to power and to give authentic input,” said Johnathan Hemphill, Youth Action Board member and youth and young adult lived experience advocate.
“To make effective choices about how we support any program, it is absolutely essential to listen with intention and reflect the voices and life experiences of those we aim to serve,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “I am continually amazed and grateful for the commitment and insight these young people and their peers bring to the table. Through their work, we are strengthening communities all across the state.”
The review process resulted in a total of $6.7 million in grants through four target initiatives:
Independent Youth Housing Program provides rental assistance and case management for young adults ages 18 through 24 who have previously been in foster care or are currently in extended foster care.
Ancillary Therapeutic Behavioral Health Services provide onsite behavioral health services to youth within HOPE Centers, Crisis Residential Centers, and licensed overnight youth shelters.
Homeless Student Stability Program provides housing support services to students and their families experiencing homelessness and unaccompanied students experiencing homelessness.
System of Care grants support interventions that prevent youth and young adults from exiting publicly funded systems of care into homelessness. Publicly funded systems of care include the child welfare system, behavioral health system, juvenile justice system, and programs administered by the Office of Homeless Youth.
In addition to members of the Y4Y Action Board, young leaders taking part in the grant review and youth summit are active in multiple local and statewide initiatives and organizations engaged in preventing and ending youth homelessness. Among them, Washington’s groundbreaking A Way Home Washington Anchor Community Initiative, the Spokane Youth Action Board, King County Youth Action Board, the Mockingbird Society and the Steering Committee on Prevention of Youth Homelessness.