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Governor Inslee signs the Homeless Youth Act!

On Friday, April 24, 2015, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law the Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Act (HYPP Act) —ground-breaking legislation that will ensure that young people experiencing homelessness are prioritized at the state level. Dozens of young people and stakeholders from across the state attended the bill signing ceremony at the state capitol in Olympia.

The HYPP Act aims to prevent and reduce youth and young adult homelessness in Washington state. The legislation will establish the Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Programs (the Office) at the state level. The Office will lead efforts to ensure that five key components are available and accessible to young people experiencing homelessness, including: stable housing; family reconciliation when safe; healthy, permanent connections with adults; opportunities for education and employment; and social and emotional well-being.

Additionally, the HYPP Act transfers critical services for young people experiencing homelessness from the Children's Administration to the Department of Commerce, which manages other housing and homelessness services in Washington. The relocated programs include: HOPE Beds, Crisis Residential Centers, and Street Youth Services.

The HYPP Act, which was introduced by Executive Request of the Governor and sponsored by Sen. Steve O'Ban (R - 28), received strong bipartisan support as it passed through both chambers of the Legislature.

The Washington Coalition for Homeless Youth Advocacy (WACHYA) led the advocacy efforts for the HYPP Act (2SSB 5404), but WACHYA had incredible leadership and support from the Governor's office and First Lady Trudi Inslee, who testified at several public hearings in Olympia.

"We applaud our leaders for setting the goal to increase system integration and coordinate efforts to prevent state systems of care, like foster care or juvenile justice, from discharging youth and young adults into homelessness. We also believe that this Act lays the foundation for our state to ensure that youth and young adults experiencing homelessness no longer have to leave their communities of origin to access the services they and their families need to reunify and thrive," said Jim Theofelis, Chair of WACHYA and Executive Director of The Mockingbird Society.

The House companion bill, 2SHB 1436, which did not pass but also had bipartisan support, was sponsored by Rep. Ruth Kagi. Both the House and Senate budgets include funding to establish the Office. Legislators are currently negotiating the final budget.