youth homelessness overview

Every year more than a half million young people, ages 12 to 25, experience homelessness in the United States. They are on their own. Overwhelmingly, they are youth of color and young people who identify as LGBTQ. These young people want to learn, work, and contribute positively to communities. 

In this critical period of brain development, young people benefit from positive experiences and environments. Collectively, we can do more for them by advancing policies and programming aimed at the environmental supports young people need to transition into successful adults and responsible citizens. 

strategy

At the Raikes Foundation, we believe youth homelessness is solvable by working together. Since 2011, we've aimed to make it a rare, brief and one-time occurrence for young people in King County. More recently, we've expanded our efforts to also help Washington state and the nation prevent and end youth homelessness. We see our role as a catalyst by bringing people together to learn what work, share promising practices and unlock resources for youth. 

PREVENTION AND EARLY INTERVENTION

As a society, we're missing major opportunities - through our public schools, child welfare services, and juvenile justice system - to recognize the early warning signs of young people in crisis and connect them to supportive services. We can stem the tide of youth homelessness through enhanced prevention and early intervention efforts.  

Public Schools: On average, there are 14 students experiencing homelessness in every public school across America. With the proper support, teachers and staff can help identify youth who are facing crises and connect them to the right services, such as counseling, legal assistance, or housing. 

Child Welfare: The instability of being in the foster care system often leads young people directly to homelessness. With more resources and improved coordination among youth-serving agencies, child welfare can play a vital part in keeping young people from ever experiencing homelessness. 

Juvenile Justice: Too many youth cycle between the juvenile justice system and homelessness. Law enforcement, probation officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges can break this cycle by linking young people to supportive services, such as housing, education, and employment opportunities. 

CRISIS RESPONSE

Even one night on the streets can derail a young person's future. The faster crisis response systems can identify and match a young person with appropriate services, the sooner that young person can get back on a path toward stability. That's why we're fostering collaboration to better understand the needs of young people, align available services and develop innovative solutions. 

PATHWAYS TO STABILITY

Education and employment are fundamental for long-term stability as young people exit homelessness. We're working with partners to create education and employment pathways that help homeless youth get on a positive trajectory toward adulthood. 

PARTNERSHIPS AND ADVOCACY

The time to act is now. If we don't invest in our future today, we allow existing problems to grow, which only costs us more in the long run. We're partnering with public and private leaders across the nation to fund research and raise awareness of the urgency of solving youth homelessness. 

 

 


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progress

In just a few years, much has been accomplished in King County's fight against youth homelessness. The Raikes Foundation is proud to be a contributor to these community-led efforts with support from other funders, service providers, policymakers and young people. We all recognize that our journey is not finished, but we are on our way to making youth and young adult homelessness rare, brief and a one-time occurrence. Here are some of our proudest accomplishments to-date.

 

WE'VE HELPED MOBILIZE FUNDERS

  • We brought together a group of private and public funders—now known as the Youth Funders Group—to collaborate on making youth and young adult homelessness rare and brief.
  • Almost $5 million in new public and private funds have been dedicated to prevention, data collection, and coordination since 2011.

 

We’ve supported the development and implementation of the Comprehensive Plan to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness

  • This robust roadmap was assembled by a diverse group of more than 100 stakeholders, including homeless youth.
  • We funded a full-time staff position to lead the regional work, including implementation of the Comprehensive Plan.

 

Our investments have contributed to greater coordination countywide, as well as to better data collection and analysis

  • Through Community Sign In, every youth seeking services is now counted without duplication. Every youth engaging with a service provider is asked a common set of questions. The responses are entered into a countywide system for analysis.
  • The launch of Youth Housing Connections provides more equitable access to housing. Regardless of which agency serves as their entry point, young people are prioritized for housing based on their level of vulnerability and program eligibility. Through the assessment process we are learning more about the unique needs and vulnerabilities of young people, which will allow us to better respond.

 

We’ve invested in efforts to drive continuous improvement

  • Along with other private funders, we supported regional street outreach services to identify and serve homeless youth, and we funded a learning lab to encourage organizations to share best practices and improve the effectiveness of their outreach.
  • We’ve supported efforts for our regional youth and young adult homelessness leaders to learn more about the techniques of improvement science, and how to use these techniques to enhance their ability to quickly get kids off the street and into safe housing.

 

We’ve invested in raising awareness and giving homeless youth a voice

  • We supported Mockingbird Society’s Youth Advocates for Ending Homelessness program, which trains current and former homeless youth to speak publicly and directly with policymakers about the needs of homeless youth
  • We sponsored a yearlong series in Crosscut, a local online news service, to share  the personal stories of young people experiencing homelessness and to highlight the public and private efforts to serve them. 
  • We helped develop tools for community stakeholders to speak with a unified voice about the issue of youth and young adult homelessness and the key elements of the Comprehensive Plan.
  • We’ve raised the visibility of youth and young adult homelessness at local, state, and federal levels, to increase partnerships and focus resources on the issue. Some of the audiences we’ve presented to include city, county, state and national policymakers, including the Governor and the First Lady of Washington state, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and other national private funders. 

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  • Partner spotlight

    The Mockingbird Society

    NEW ADVOCATES, NEW INSIGHT INTO ENDING YOUTH HOMELESSNESS

    On a recent Monday morning, a young woman took a seat before the Seattle City Council, opened her PowerPoint slides, and cheerfully introduced herself to the elected officials.

    “My name is Montrai Williams,” she told the council, flashing a photograph of herself in pigtails at the age of four. “I go by Trai.”

    She spoke with the calm and confidence of a seasoned political veteran. Yet Trai is far from typical in the halls of government—one reason why she is such an effective advocate for preventing and ending youth homelessness in King County.


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    Partner spotlight

    The Mockingbird Society

    NEW ADVOCATES, NEW INSIGHT INTO ENDING YOUTH HOMELESSNESS

    On a recent Monday morning, a young woman took a seat before the Seattle City Council, opened her PowerPoint slides, and cheerfully introduced herself to the elected officials.

    “My name is Montrai Williams,” she told the council, flashing a photograph of herself in pigtails at the age of four. “I go by Trai.”

    She spoke with the calm and confidence of a seasoned political veteran. Yet Trai is far from typical in the halls of government—one reason why she is such an effective advocate for preventing and ending youth homelessness in King County.


    Read More

Like all children, homeless youth have boundless promise. Or rather, they have promise that is bounded only by our ability to help them find their way.

– Tricia Raikes

Illustrative Grants

Legal Counsel for Youth and Children

This grant supports LCYC’s Legal Services Partnership for Youth, a program that provides pro bono legal support for young people experiencing homelessness. 

A Way Home Washington

This grant supports A Way Home Washington’s efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness in Washington State.

100 Day Challenge Sites

This collection of grants to the Rapid Results Institute, Nexus Youth and Families, YouthCare, the Reach Center, and Spokane Housing Authority facilitated the 100 Day Challenge in Washington state, an initiative to house as many young people as possible in 100 days by piloting innovative solutions. 

Civic Enterprises

This grant supports Civic Enterprises’ work on student homelessness, including research, policy development and analysis, and communications.

The Mockingbird Society

This grant provides ongoing support for the Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness, a leadership development program that engages youth who are currently experiencing or have previously experienced homelessness to engage in efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness in Washington State. 

YouthCare, Nexus Youth and Families, Friends of Youth, New Horizons, YMCA

This grant supports a collaborative effort among these five youth service providers to offer flexible funding to more quickly end the crisis of homelessness for young people. The project also supports the development of the Youth Worker’s Institute, skills development training for providers, and peer learning across agencies.