Submitted by A Way Home Washington
Thurston County is one of five new “Anchor Communities” announced last week by A Way Home Washington (AWHWA). This more than doubles the number of communities working intensively to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness in Washington, which is estimated to be 13,000 – 15,000 young people statewide. The Anchor Community Initiative is the flagship program of AWHWA, a statewide movement to prevent and end homelessness for unaccompanied youth and young adults. The program is undertaken in partnership with the Office of Homeless Youth.
“As lead organization, Community Youth Services (CYS) is excited to launch this initiative with many community partners to build an equitable system of preventing and ending youth and young adult homelessness in Thurston County. Alongside our partners, many are listed below, we will examine the existing successes and challenges of our current system. We are eager to collaborate with A Way Home Washington, Anchor Communities, who will provide consultation, coaching and resources, seeking to improve the outcomes for young people in our local region”- stated Derek R. Harris, CEO, Community Youth Services
During the 2021 legislative session, additional resources were directed to make expansion of the Anchor Community Initiative. Expansion of this national model builds on recent milestones achieved by Anchor Communities, including Spokane, which has become the largest community in the United States to achieve a sustained, measurable reduction in youth and young adult homelessness, and Walla Walla, which reduced homelessness for young people by 20% over a six-month period.
Thurston County, together with Skagit County, Whatcom County, Clark County, Jefferson and Clallam Counties applied and were selected to become Anchor Communities. These communities join the initial and continuing Anchor Communities of Pierce, Spokane, Walla Walla, and Yakima counties in bringing together diverse coalitions to work across systems and silos, sticking with their collective approach until they have functionally ended youth and young adult homelessness. “Functional zero” means a community has the ability to prevent most homelessness, quickly identify all the unaccompanied young people who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability at any given time, and quickly resolve homelessness with connections to safe and stable housing.
“The circumstances that lead to the experience of homelessness can vary greatly, so solutions also need to be varied. Tailoring approaches to prevent and end homelessness that take into account the circumstances of young people and the communities they live in is the focus of the Anchor Community Initiative,” said Julie Patiño, Executive Director for A Way Home Washington. “These intensive whole-community-driven, solution-focused efforts are increasing our understanding of what works in preventing and ending homelessness for young people. It also powers our ability to proactively share learnings and provide training and assistance to all interested communities across Washington state.”
A large cohort of local youth serving organizations, convened by TOGETHER! to launch this initiative, selected CYS to be the Anchor Community Initiative lead organization. Also designated to be leads on the project, were the YWCA of Olympia and Pizza Klatch to be the Youth Advisory Board leads, and Thurston County to be the Data and Continuum of Care leads.
“We are so excited to be part of this initiative and work alongside young people, especially those who have historically been and continue to be marginalized, advocate for systems change and for the solutions they envision,” said Hillary Detamore, CEO of YWCA Olympia.
“Pizza Klatch is excited about this opportunity to be an Anchor Community along with our partners to support youth in being changemakers for Thurston County. LGBTQ+ youth experience houselessness at an alarming rate and providing support groups gives Pizza Klatch a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between youth and housing.” Jay Banks, ED of Pizza Klatch.
“The success of the Thurston County Homeless Crisis Response System requires youth and young adults to have a seat at the table. Their voices, their leadership are vital to meeting the desired goal of ending homelessness for all sub populations. The Office of Housing and Homeless Prevention is excited to participate in this initiative and look forward to its inevitable success,” said Keylee Marineau, Thurston County Homeless Coordinator.
Many Thurston County community partners have come together as part of this endeavor to pledge support and launch this initiative, currently they include:
- Community Action Council of Lewis, Mason & Thurston Counties
- Community Youth Services
- Family Education and Support Services
- Family Support Center of South Sound
- Homes First
- Innovations Human Trafficking Collaborative
- Legal Counsel for Youth and Children
- North Thurston Public Schools
- Office of Homeless Youth
- Partners in Prevention Education (PiPE)
- Pizza Klatch
- Providence Southwest Washington
- South Sound YMCA
- Thurston County
- YWCA of Olympia
Anchor Communities receive a wide array of supports, including strategic coaching, guidance on collecting and utilizing quality data, subject matter expertise, tools to uncover inequities and make progress toward key milestones, connections to and learning with other Anchor Communities, and access to state-level funding and policy advocacy based on local needs.
Promising approaches to effectively prevent and end homelessness for young people have been identified and are actively being used in Anchor Communities, including:
- Personalized, real-time data. Communities that create a comprehensive, real-time “By Name List” of every unaccompanied young person in a community experiencing homelessness or housing instability can better pinpoint the specific services and system improvements needed to quickly house each individual.
- Collaboration across systems. Community coalitions, representing diverse systems, meet regularly (“case conferencing”) to review their community’s By Name List and collectively identify unique approaches to help house each and every individual identified.
- Prevention resources. Communities are connecting schools, juvenile justice, behavioral health and other systems that can more easily identify the young people they serve who have housing instability to a dedicated service that is equipped to quickly connect them to needed resources and support.
- Quick access to flexible funds. Service providers receive training to quickly access flexible funds for expenses such as rental assistance, security deposit, and application fees to prevent a young person from falling into homelessness or to quickly divert them out of homelessness.
- Insights from youth with experience. Communities that actively engage a Youth Advisory Board learn from young people with experience of homelessness who are uniquely qualified to identify cracks in systems and pinpoint specific areas to change.
To learn more about the Thurston County Anchor Community, please contact Derek R. Harris, CEO, Community Youth Services- firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information on A Way Home Washington and the Anchor Community Initiative, visit the A Way Home Washington website.
A Way Home Washington (AWHWA) is a statewide movement to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness, with a focus on prioritizing young people of color and LGBTQ+ youth who experience homelessness at higher rates than their white, straight, cisgender peers. Co-Chaired by First Lady Trudi Inslee, AWHWA unites passionate stakeholders across the state to build systems that respond to the unique needs of all young people.
A key position in launching and supporting this initiative is the Anchor Community Initiative Coordinator. Interested candidates, can find more information by visiting the A Way Home Washington Thurston County job position for the Anchor Communities initiative: Nonprofit Jobs | TSNE MissionWorks Anchor Community Initiative Coordinator, Thurston County in Washington | Careers at A Way Home Washington (icims.com)