“Yes to Yes” Washington State

A Deep Dive Into Unaccompanied youth and Young Adult Homelessness

Art by Cristina "Pink" Varela

In line with our collective goal of understanding and solving the intricate issue of unaccompanied youth and young adult homelessness in Washington state, we partnered with the Office of Homeless Youth (OHY) and A Way Home Washington (AWHWA), with generous support from the Raikes Foundation and the Schultz Family Foundation to release the “Yes to Yes” Washington State: Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adult Homelessness Landscape Scan in February 2024. Following the last landscape scan in 2016, this comprehensive project offers invaluable analysis of the youth homelessness response system, shedding light on the strides made and the work to be done. 

It’s vital for us to amplify the experiences of people with lived experience and help bring awareness to the various ways homelessness can present and impede on the efforts of young people. It is the duty of all community members to educate themselves on how to identify and support young people experiencing homelessness. The most effective approach exploring and analyzing the complex issue of youth and young adult homelessness happens to be the simplest: talk to young people with lived experience. 

Thank you to the over 100 young people with lived experience, service providers, and other key stakeholders who directly contributed to this report. 

Starting with designated focus groups to interview BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+ and pregnant and parenting young people, we then proceeded to speak to as many experts as it took to identify overarching themes and better understand innovative solutions to difficulties faced by young people experiencing homelessness, such as supportive leasing, direct cash transfers, and decriminalizing sex work for young adults. 

Thanks to focused funding and dedicated attention, remarkable achievements have been made, including OHY’s closure of the geographic service gap identified in 2016. However, it must be understood this report is a candid acknowledgement that our collective work is far from over. 

The Landscape Scan provides a stark analysis of the inequities within the system. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander young people were nine times more likely to access the homelessness system than their white counterparts, and Black and African American young people were seven times more likely. These disparities emphasize the necessity of targeted interventions to ensure equity in the provision of services. 

The updated Landscape Scan is more than a report: it’s a call to action. It elevates the voices of those most impacted by the shortfalls of our system, paired with quantitative data analysis for a multilateral assessment of unmet needs on the micro and macro levels. 

We must prioritize the needs voiced by young people and work collaboratively on a future where every young person has the support they need. 

There is much work to be done, but with the roadmap laid out by this project, we are better equipped to navigate this issue statewide. 

The “Yes to Yes” Washington State: Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adult Homelessness Landscape Scan puts forth instruction for a future where every unaccompanied young person receives the support they need, promptly and within their own home community. It’s a future we must achieve, for the sake of the communities who depend on us, through continued dedication, innovation, and collaboration.

Leeze Castro