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YAEH Expansion: Tacoma + Spokane

Youth Advocacy Day 2017 Youth Advocacy Day 2017 [Photo: Jerry Davis]

Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness(YAEH) started in Seattle in 2013 under the name Homeless Youth Initiative and worked with Seattle Mayor Michael McGinn toward the goal of making homelessness rare, brief and one-time. After the first year, it was changed to YAEH, the name we all know today.

Through our work, we found that often youth and young adults experience both foster care and homelessness. Because of this intersectionality, The Mockingbird Society added advocacy on issues related to youth homelessness to our historical focus on foster care. Since 2014-15, the YAEH Chapter has brought an issue to the Mockingbird statewide advocacy agenda each year, resulting in legislative asks that have contributed to the creation of the Office of Homeless Youth, expansion of Street Youth Services, and expanded funding for HOPE Beds.

In 2016, the YAEH chapter held two monthly meetings in Seattle; one in the University District and one Downtown. Having a chapter that focuses on issues of homelessness has been of great benefit to the work of Mockingbird, but the issues of homelessness in Seattle are not always representative of homelessness in other parts of the state. For this reason, and thanks to the generous support of the Raikes Foundation, Mockingbird is piloting a limited expansion of its YAEH program by welcoming two new young adult staff in Tacoma and Spokane who have firsthand experience with homelessness. These communities were selected based on a high incidence of youth homelessness and pre-existing efforts and partnerships in these communities.

The new YAEH Representatives will collaborate with local partners and represent homeless youth in efforts to eliminate youth homelessness and obtain a more inclusive understanding of the issue around the state. They are tasked with conducting outreach within their communities. This outreach will include going to drop-in centers, becoming active members on homeless youth boards, and writing articles about their findings for the Mockingbird Times. This outreach will also help inform our advocacy agenda related to youth homelessness. We are excited for youth voice on the topic of youth homelessness to be elevated across the state.

Homelessness presents itself differently by geographic area, so we need diverse methods for dealing with it. The first step to figuring out what will work in an area is conducting outreach and collecting data. Having staff in Tacoma and Spokane who will represent the voices of homeless youth in their communities will allow for YAEH to have a more reflective and inclusive voice for homelessness in our state. I hope this will lead to further expansion of the YAEH program in all six of our regions.