We are incredibly excited to announce that Legal Counsel for Youth and Children (LCYC) and Street Youth Legal Advocates for Washington (SYLAW) are expanding civil legal services for homeless youth at YouthCare starting July 1, 2016 in year-long pilot program funded by the Raikes Foundation. Through a weekly drop-in clinic at YouthCare’s Orion Center and close collaboration with YouthCare’s Adolescent Emergency Shelter staff, LCYC will provide 2,600 hours of pro-bono legal help to youth and young adults experiencing homelessness and housing instability.

“The young people we see in our drop-in program and through street outreach have multiple legal issues that create barriers to becoming stably housed,” says Laurel Snow, YouthCare’s Drop-in and Outreach Program Manager. “LCYC attorneys have long been important resources to help our youngest and most vulnerable clients. I am incredibly excited to partner with LCYC to expand these services to help clients across YouthCare’s entire continuum of services to address barriers to stability and learn their legal rights.”

Laurel saw firsthand the impact of skilled legal help when twelve-year-old Nathan was brought into the Orion Center by concerned citizens who found him alone on a city bus. He had run from home due to abuse and neglect and wanted to live in a group home. Staff helped him find an immediate safe place to sleep at YouthCare’s Adolescent Emergency Shelter and called LCYC. An LCYC attorney met with him that day and was able to file a dependency petition which resulted in Nathan entering a foster care placement.

In addition to seeking help to navigate the child welfare system, young people experiencing homelessness often have multiple legal issues that can prolong their homelessness. An unsealed juvenile record from their early teenage years can prevent them from finding housing or employment as a young adult. Identity theft or accumulated unpaid tickets can result in poor credit and barriers to housing. These are all challenges that can prevent our clients from moving forward with school, work, and other goals, and require attorneys with specialized expertise.

We are grateful to LCYC for partnering with YouthCare to provide this vital service that will help prevent and end homelessness for the young people we serve, and to the Raikes Foundation for their generous support of this work.