To Our Dedicated Community,

I want to take a moment to address the recent Supreme Court ruling that allows cities to criminalize people experiencing homelessness for sleeping outside. This decision is even more troubling because it applies even when no adequate shelter is available. As the CEO of YouthCare, I must express our strong disagreement with this ruling and highlight its devastating implications for the youth and young adults we serve in Seattle and King County.

This ruling essentially criminalizes poverty and homelessness, making it harder for those already struggling to find stable housing. It is particularly concerning for the 4.2 million youth and young adults experiencing homelessness across our nation. These young people face unique barriers, such as a scarcity of youth shelter beds, narrow eligibility requirements, and limited access to age-appropriate services. Now, they can be arrested simply because they cannot find a safe place to sleep.

At YouthCare, our mission is to end youth homelessness and empower young people to achieve their full potential. This ruling stands in stark contrast to our values and the work we do every day. Instead of offering support and solutions, it punishes those who are most vulnerable. We know from experience that criminalizing homelessness does not solve the problem; it only exacerbates it by pushing people further into the margins of society and making it more difficult for them to access the help they need.

In Seattle and King County, homelessness is already a critical issue. Washington state has the sixth-highest rate of homelessness in the country, and this problem is growing faster than the national average. The Supreme Court’s decision could pave the way for more restrictive policies against public camping, worsening the crisis. Mayor Bruce Harrell has stated that Seattle’s approach will remain focused on offering shelter and services while keeping public spaces clean and accessible. However, the potential for more restrictive measures is now a looming threat.

At YouthCare, we believe that we cannot address homelessness and poverty through punishment. Legal actions are being pursued to protect the rights of homeless individuals under state constitutions, but we need broader support and legislative change to make a real impact.

There are many effective alternatives to address youth homelessness that do not involve criminalization. We can support legislative measures such as the Homeless Children and Youth Act, ensuring young people are counted, heard, and supported. The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act of 2023 aims to update existing programs to provide better services for homeless youth.

At YouthCare, we remain steadfast in our commitment to ending youth homelessness. Every young person deserves a safe place to sleep, access to essential services, and the opportunity to build a brighter future. This ruling is a setback but will not deter us from our mission. We will continue to advocate for policies that support, rather than punish, those in need.

I encourage you to reach out to your representatives and urge them to support legislation that addresses the root causes of homelessness.

Let us continue to work together to create a world where no young person must face homelessness alone.


Degale Cooper
CEO, YouthCare