On April 24, Governor Inslee signed into law an act to address and prevent youth homelessness at the state level. This bill was among three legislative priorities for YouthCare during the state legislative session, which also included passage of the YEAR Act and Extended Foster Care for youth with significant medical conditions. We are thrilled to report that all three priorities passed with bipartisan support.
- The Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Act creates an Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection Programs (HYPP Office) in the Department of Commerce. The HYPP Office will take responsibility for the issue of youth and young adult homelessness at the state level. This office will help increase state system integration, gather data, and measure progress towards reducing youth homelessness and promoting family reunification when safe and appropriate. In addition, the HYPP Office will manage and oversee three critical state programs for homeless youth: Street Youth Services, HOPE Centers, and Crisis Residential Centers. Learn more about this bill and its impact at the Washington Coalition for Homeless Youth Advocacy (WACHYA).
- The Youth Equality and Reintegration (YEAR Act) enables youth to seal their juvenile records regardless of socioeconomic background. Currently, legal financial obligations disproportionately prevent low-income youth from sealing their eligible juvenile records at age 18. These records can prevent youth from obtaining employment, housing, or school scholarships for years into the future and can contribute to ongoing homelessness for the youth we serve. The YEAR Act reduces the burden of legal financial obligations and focuses payments on restitution owed to a victim. The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
- Extended Foster Care provides foster care support through age 21 for youth with documented medical conditions. These vulnerable youth make up the fifth and final category of youth eligible for foster care support through age 21, as outlined in the federal Fostering Connections Act. With the passage of this bill, we will ensure that all youth aging out of foster care at age 18 have the opportunity to maintain safe housing until age 21. This bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
We are grateful to WACHYA, of which we are a member, for their extraordinary work and leadership in advancing these priorities. We are also grateful to the Office of the Governor and our legislative champions who advocated for the needs of homeless young people this legislative session.