The Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness (YAEH) program has been working hard on their statewide reform ideas for 2016 — increasing funding for HOPE Beds and including youth voice on the Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Advisory Board (OHYPP).
HOPE Beds are 30-day shelter beds for under 18-year-old homeless youth that exist across the state, but right now there aren’t enough of them. Unlike other shelter options for homeless under-18 youth, these beds are self-referred, which means that a youth can ask to sleep in a HOPE bed instead relying on referrals from police officers or social workers. There is a great need for this resource because a lot of youth who become homeless have nowhere safe to go and don’t know how to access resources. Having a safe place to sleep, clean clothes, and food should never be an issue for youth at all. Funding these HOPE Beds will provide a safe place for youth to live and get connected to services they need.
We currently have only 23 HOPE Beds in all of Washington, and we are hoping to get funding for a maximum of 75 HOPE Beds. YAEH members are excited to be able to present the need for more HOPE Beds and advocate for funding during the legislative session.
The second topic YEAH identified as a priority to work on this winter is including youth voice in the newly created Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Advisory Board. On the OHYPP Advisory Board there are a total of 12 members, including seats reserved for parent advocates, law enforcement, and legislators. However, there are no seats reserved for young people who have experienced homelessness.
Youth voice is needed because the stories and experiences of youth who have been homeless are important for policymakers to hear. Our experiences give us more ideas and understanding about what needs to change to really end youth homelessness. That is why YAEH is advocating to get at least 1-2 youth onto the Advisory Board so that youth voices and ideas can be heard.
On Tuesday 12/22, 6 YAEH members met with Kim Justice, the Executive Director of OHYPPP, to discuss both of our recommendations. We were pleased that she is already prioritizing engaging with youth advocates. Although there are no guarantees, we are hopeful that the office will take a serious look at making the case to expand HOPE Beds, and institutionalize youth voice in planning and decision making.
There is a great need for the youth to be heard. Our ideas — to improve foster care, and end youth homelessness — can change lives for the better. We hope that you will be able to come to Youth Advocacy Day on January 29th in Olympia and help us fight for all of our amazing ideas!!