As you no doubt have heard by now, yesterday morning, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and King County Executive Dow Constantine declared states of emergency in Seattle and our region, regarding people experiencing homelessness. Their action highlights the crisis we all see every day in our community. There has been a 21% rise in unsheltered homelessness in King County since last year – a stunning and atypically large increase. This huge increase occurred despite increased local investments from both the City and County, as well as philanthropic sources.

At YouthCare, we see this crisis reflected in the deep trauma and the high needs of more and more of the youth we serve. Those who come to us after a family loses their primary source of income, after surviving years of physical abuse, after rejection for sharing their true identity with a parent or guardian. In each and every case, we know that it is essential to earn the trust of a young person and build an individualized plan for each particular youth’s needs, strengths, and goals.

In a city and region as wealthy as ours, it is profoundly heartbreaking to think of children sleeping outside, of families sleeping in cars, of our neighbors spending their nights camped precariously next to a highway overpass. This state of emergency is a cry to acknowledge this reality—and unprecedented rates of homelessness—and to activate new investments and decisive actions to address this crisis.

I’ve been asked many times since the announcement if this declaration is a good thing. In a word: yes. As our region has grown exponentially and welcomed new people, businesses, and innovators, many have been left behind.

But is this declaration the answer to homelessness? No, not by itself. It can only be the first step. I am hopeful that this powerful call for partnership, resources, and action also serves as a moment when every member of our community leaves apathy and acceptance of suffering behind and makes a bold commitment to helping their neighbors in need. I am also hopeful that our state and federal leaders answer this call with new resources and equally bold action.

The announcement brings both immediate crisis response and planning for long-term solutions. I am committed to ensuring that the unique needs, experiences, and potential of youth are part of these response efforts. We know what works to help homeless youth move forward in their lives: a safe and stable place to live, opportunities to continue their education and begin to build job skills and explore career options, and the support of caring adults along the way. Moreover, we know that if we want to prevent adult homelessness, we must provide youth in crisis with the tools, support, and confidence to move beyond homelessness permanently.

I have the great honor of having spent my entire career advocating for the needs of our community’s homeless young people. I look forward to the next era of collaboration and to working with our local, state, and national leaders in the days and weeks ahead to support solutions to the crisis of homelessness facing our community. As our united work evolves, I will certainly keep you posted – and ask for your bold help and voice when needed. I appreciate that we can rely on your trust and kindness.