Thanks to a new burst of funding, Spokane is pouring more resources into ending youth homelessness.
The city was awarded a $400,000 grant this month and will partner with Volunteers of America to both connect young people to available services and better document who is experiencing homelessness.
The city subcontracted $366,064 of the grant, awarded through A Way Home Washington’s Anchor Community Initiative, to the Volunteers of America of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.
Part of the two-year grant will pay for two new case managers at Volunteers of America, who will conduct outreach in an effort to combat homelessness among people ages 13 to 24 years old.
“There was a gap in our community for that. There was nobody really dedicated to doing that outreach into schools and behavioral health programs,” said Bridget Cannon, director of youth services at Volunteers of America.
The goal is to divert young people leaving public systems of care – such as public schools, the juvenile justice system, the behavioral health system and child-welfare system – from entering the homeless system. The ideal result is to “help them stay put and stable,” according to Cannon. If that’s not possible, Volunteers of America will step in “to prevent them from ending up on the streets” and help them find housing.
“There is a tremendous need there to assist with youth who are exiting those systems to make sure they’re exiting to a stable living situation,” Cannon said.
The flagship of Volunteers of America’s youth-focused services is Crosswalk, an emergency shelter for runaways and homeless youth between the ages of 13 and 17 that has operated for more than 30 years.
The nonprofit also operates Alexandria’s House, a group home for young mothers or mothers-to-be between 16 and 20 years old located in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood.
There are roughly 1,800 young people leaving a state public system of care and experiencing homelessness or an unstable housing situation every year, according to a 2018 report released by A Way Home Washington. Of those 1,800 young people, about two-thirds had come out of inpatient behavioral health treatment programs.
Often, young people return to the same situation that “created the issue to begin with,” Cannon added.
The grant will also fund the creation of a “by-name list,” which provides a real-time look at who is experiencing homelessness, that will be maintained by the city.
“Both of these activities build on national best practices and proven successes in our efforts to reduce and end veteran and chronic homelessness,” said Matthew Davis, the city’s homeless program specialist.
In addition to documenting the status of homeless youth, the by-name list will help providers collaborate and provide services on a case-by-case basis for each individual, rather than force an individual to navigate the web of services alone.
The model has already been employed in the city’s efforts to address veteran homelessness.
“Part of the by-name list is doing the case conferencing and getting the partners together, surrounding this young person with services and assistance and support,” Cannon said.
Spokane County is one of four “anchor communities” designated by A Way Home Washington, which has partnered with the state’s Office of Homeless Youth in an effort to end youth homelessness. The state Legislature has set aside $1 million to fund youth homelessness efforts in each of the four anchor communities.
There are between 13,000 and 15,000 unaccompanied homeless young people across the state, according to A Way Home Washington.
Each anchor community develops a core team consisting of representatives from local government, schools, service providers, the juvenile justice system and young people who have experienced homelessness.
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