A 40% Reduction in Youth Homelessness Serves as Beacon of Hope

Cover Art by: Cristina “Pink” Varela
Cover Art by: Cristina “Pink” Varela

A new report “Yes to Yes” Washington State: Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adult Homelessness Landscape Scan shares the important and transformative progress our state has made in the past eight years and confirms a 40% reduction in youth homelessness in communities across Washington State!

Eight years ago, the state made a promise to do better for its young people experiencing homelessness. Organizations, political leaders, and visionary philanthropists—including A Way Home Washington, the Mockingbird Society, Raikes Foundation, and the Schultz Family Foundation—stepped up to the challenge.

The Homeless Youth Protection and Prevention Act, championed by Governor Inslee and the Washington State Legislature, established dedicated funding for 12–25-year-olds who were experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

This Act established the Office of Homeless Youth to coordinate with communities statewide to identify and help young people struggling to find housing or stay housed, a foundational investment in this success.

The state of Washington is stopping the flow of youth into a lifetime of homelessness. Here’s how Campion Advocacy Fund President Sonya Campion breaks down the significant progress we’ve made:

“This effort was a result of extraordinary, innovative, and passionate leadership on all levels. First, Governor Jay Inslee’s commitment was crucial. He wasn’t afraid to shake things up—he reorganized his administration to prioritize the needs of young people, ensuring youth homelessness wasn’t an afterthought. 

Second, frontline nonprofit service providers rose to the challenge. They embraced innovative approaches, actively seeking input from homeless youth themselves. 

Third, Senator Patty Murray leveraged her experience on the national stage. She’s championing a bold new vision: prevention over triage. Traditionally, government responses to homelessness prioritize emergency shelter over long-term solutions. Senator Murray’s push for preventative measures promises to stop youth from falling into homelessness in the first place.

Finally, Washington’s generous and creative philanthropic partners stepped up to provide flexible support for research, testing, capacity building, and advocacy.”

One of Washington’s most innovative programs, the Homelessness Prevention & Diversion Fund, has become a gamechanger. By breaking the paradigm of how government has worked historically, this program empowers service providers to respond to youth facing challenges with targeted grants of flexible funding to keep those challenges from turning into a housing crisis. 

For example, a young person who receives an unexpected $300 car repair bill—and is forced to decide whether to pay the bill or fall behind on rent—can receive a timely cash grant from a local provider in their community so they can pay their bill and not risk eviction. Simple, common sense, and effective prevention that works in preventing homelessness!

The Seattle Times agrees, stating in a March 17 editorial, “This success hinges on two things: First, careful screening of candidates (that is, channeling the money toward people with specific, limited needs). Second, using community workers whom clients already know and trust, to help them create plans for stability, rather than handing them off to anonymous strangers in emergency shelters.”

The federal government is taking notice, too, thanks to the leadership of Senator Patty Murray. She is using her years of experience to encourage the federal government to get in front of the problem by focusing on prevention instead of triage—something rare in the traditional way government responds to homelessness. In late March, she secured $3 million in the federal appropriations bill to jump start this work nationally. This funding is a down payment on her Preventing Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project bill which will allow communities across the country build innovative programs similar to Washington’s. 

At Campion, we believe this success in addressing youth homelessness can help us end ALL homelessness. We’re actively working on expanding philanthropic support to help build on current success to create a seamless support system for all youth in every community in Washington. As Sonya points out, “This is the kind of innovation the Northwest is known for, and the fact we are applying it to our youth? Well, it’s about time.”

If you are interested in learning more or want to get involved, please contact Sheila Babb Anderson, sbanderson@campionadvocacyfund.org.