Thursday, February 4 2016

Building Changes allies and aligns with advocates for homeless youth

Young person in classFor many years, Building Changes has been grateful and thankful for the individuals and organizations across the state that dedicate themselves to finding short-term help and long-term solutions for young people who experience homelessness.

The tireless efforts of this active community has led to an ever-expanding movement for addressing youth and young adult homelessness in Washington. An articulated priority became reality last year with the creation of the Office of Homeless Youth Protection and Prevention under the state Department of Commerce.

Building Changes is excited to do our part to help build on this momentum for change. We regard our role as that of ally, offering to contribute our strengths to the solid work already underway.

We entered this arena in December 2014 when we joined 38 public, private and philanthropic partners in signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Gov. Jay Inslee that pledged a collective commitment to youth and young adults who experience homelessness. Late last year, we took our first step toward that commitment.

Through the Washington Youth & Families Fund, we awarded $1.62 million in grants that engage education and employment systems so they can better serve the needs of youth and young adults who are homeless or struggling to remain housed. The grants are designed to help these young people secure jobs, continue their education and maintain stable housing.

This is a moment of great opportunity to support youth experiencing homelessness to have a bright future.

—First Lady Trudi Inslee

“This is a moment of great opportunity to support youth experiencing homelessness to have a bright future,” said Trudi Inslee, our state’s First Lady and co-chair of the Washington Youth & Families Fund. “These Washington Youth & Families Fund grants and the new Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection are two examples of innovation at work to end youth and young adult homelessness. I’m thrilled our state is stepping up to this challenge.”

The funding strategy for the grants grew out of deliberations by providers and youth who identified education and employment systems as valuable pathways to stable housing. Building Changes appreciated their guidance and direction.

Youth and young adults often point to inequities within systems that prevent them from obtaining services. To address these realities, we will support the grantee agencies to ensure that the projects are accessible to all, including youth of color and youth who identify as LGBTQ, both of whom are disproportionately represented in the homeless population.

Building Changes will evaluate and measure the impact of the services supported by the grants so we can learn more about what approaches show promise at serving the youth and young adult population effectively. The more we learn, the more wisely we can invest in the future.

“These investments are designed to support local communities as they strive to embrace each and every young person,” said David Bley, director of the Pacific Northwest Initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and fund co-chair. “The grants will better coordinate housing, education and employment support, and fuel practices that adapt to the strengths and challenges of each young person, allowing us to learn more about what works for youth experiencing homelessness.”