City of Spokane receives nearly $1M grant to fund youth homelessness services

The City of Spokane and Volunteers of America received a $940,000 grant to fund services for homeless youth and young adults.

The grant was awarded by the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Office of Homeless Youth.

The money given to Spokane is part of a $4 million statewide budget for the Anchor Community Initiative. The initiative seeks to end youth and young adult homelessness in four Washington communities by the end of 2022.

In a release sent Tuesday, the City of Spokane said the local homeless providers will be able to more efficiently identify young people experiencing homelessness in the public school system and in behavioral health treatment programs, as well as provide resources to quickly house them. The City of Spokane said they’re specifically looking at young adults between the ages of 18 and 24.

“Around our state, tens of thousands of students experience homelessness on any given night, and hundreds of young people exit behavioral health programs into homelessness,” said Jim Theofelis, Executive Director of A Way Home Washington. “Our communities need these resources so we can help every young person find safe, stable housing.”

Volunteers of America plan to add 11 news units of transitional housing for young adults in the Spokane community. Some of those units will provide medium to long-term rental assistance and support services to help young adults develop independent living skills.

“Through our continued partnership with the City of Spokane and the Anchor Community Initiative, we are able to serve the most vulnerable young people in our community,” said Bridget Cannon, Youth Services Director of VOA. “These units will be available to house young adults, including those with a history of behavioral health treatment and help them find a path to permanent, stable housing.”

Justice Sun is a participant of one of the VOA programs. Sun currently pays only 30 percent of the actual rent, as the VOA is their “master leaser”

Justice said they ran away from home after going through difficult situations at home.

“I was adopted foreignly and I spent about 16 years in Michigan in a dysfunctional family. Abusive, trauma,” Justice said.

Different circumstances brought Justice to Washington, and now Justice is an advocate for young adults who experience homelessness and foster kids.

“These youth have so much potential and they just need people to help them,” Justice said. “It’s more than what’s on the surface.”

According to the City of Spokane, the initiative will build a “robust data infrastructure” of needs and services required by young people across Spokane’s communities.

“Once we have this tool, we’ll be using continuous improvement signs to rapidly test and improve outcomes for young people,” said Matt Davis, with the City of Spokane. “That may include new programming or that may include changing how the process currently works.”

“The Anchor Communities Initiative is advancing data-driven solutions so that we can better target state, local and private partner resources toward the most promising approaches to meeting the unique needs of vulnerable youth,” said Dr. Lisa Brown, Director of the Department of Commerce. “Valuable collaborations, such as this one, strengthen communities by helping to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time for young people in our state.”

Cannon said if agencies can work together and keep the young adults from becoming homeless, it might help with the homeless problem in the city.

“Imagine if we can stop that dead in it’s tracks. Right here right now, through this initiative. We’ve already cut our homeless population in half then,” Cannon said. “They’re not stepping into taking the place of a homeless person who gets housed. We can end that homelessness right now and they don’t end up as a homeless adult out on the street. That’s the absolute hope of this.”

For more information on the Anchor Communities Initiative, you can visit their website here.