The 2020 legislative session wrapped up last week and there is a lot to celebrate! For the first time in YouthCare’s history, all of our state legislative priorities passed and all our budget priorities were (at least partially) funded! Keep reading to see what passed and why it matters for young people experiencing homelessness.

Policy Priorities

Making Washington a Safe Harbor: PASSED!

YouthCare has advocated for this bill for three years and we are thrilled it finally passed! The bill exempts minors from arrest and charges of prostitution, establishes commercially sexually exploited children (CSEC) liaisons at the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, and creates two therapeutic receiving centers so sexually exploited youth are treated as victims of trafficking and not as criminals. Changing the statute brings Washington in line with thirty other states and in accordance with the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

Major thanks Rep.Tina Orwall for sponsoring this bill in the House and Senator Manka Dhingra for sponsoring it in the Senate.

IDs With Ease: PASSED!

YouthCare was excited to support this bill that was proposed by youth advocates at The Mockingbird Society. The bill reduces state ID documentation requirements and cost barriers for young people experiencing homelessness. Obtaining identification cards can be particularly challenging for homeless youth and creates barriers to getting a job, renting an apartment, or traveling outside the state.

Major thanks Rep. Lisa Callan for sponsoring this bill in the House and Senator Marko Liias for sponsoring it in Senate.

Family Reconciliation Services: PASSED!

This is a small bill with a significant impact; it is also part of a larger strategy to implement last year’s SB 5290, which phases out the use of detention for non-criminal offenses such as running away from foster care or skipping school. The bill will improve and expand access to family reconciliation services by enabling the Department of Children, Youth, and Families to subcontract services and assessments to community-based organizations. Instead of having to go through the state for support, families will now be able to access services in their own communities with trusted, culturally-relevant providers.

Major thanks Rep. Jesse Johnson for sponsoring this bill in the House and Senator Jeannie Darneille for sponsoring it in the Senate.

Budget Priorities

Long-term beds for minors: FULLY FUNDED!

The final budget included $1 million for the Office of Homeless Youth to create a transitional housing pilot program for youth experiencing homelessness. Under current state law, teens staying in homeless youth shelters can only stay for a maximum of fifteen or sixty days, depending on the shelter. As a result, almost a third of youth exit from one shelter into another because they don’t have a stable long-term placement. This funding will end the cycle of instability by providing young people a long-term option if they have no safe, alternative place to go.

Pre-apprenticeship programs for homeless youth: PARTIALLY FUNDED

While Washington is rich in employment opportunity, too many young people are being left behind: nearly one-sixth of Washington’s youth ages 16-24 are neither in school nor working. Pre-apprenticeships play an essential role in helping young people prepare for, access, and obtain successful employment. Programs like YouthCare’s YouthBuild are particularly effective at engaging young people experiencing homelessness to help them gain stable housing and achieve successful careers in the trades ($400,000 included in the final budget)

Implementing SB 5290: PARTIALLY FUNDED

Last year, the legislature made bold progress by phasing out the use of detention for status offenses over the next five years; the state must now invest in therapeutic alternatives to ensure young people receive the supports they need. For the first year of implementation, the state included funding for:

  • Safe & stable therapeutic placements for dependent youth with significant behavioral or developmental health needs to reduce the reliance on hotel, emergency room, and out-of-state placements ($7.6 million included in the final budget)
  • Enhanced services at homeless youth shelters to add onsite or contracted behavioral health support ($400,000 included in the final budget)

Major thanks to the House Appropriations Chair & Vice-Chair, Timm Ormsby and June Robinson, and Senate Ways & Means Chair & Vice-Chair, Christine Rolfes and David Frockt, for ensuring these critical investments were included in the final budget.