FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 4, 2022
SKAGIT COUNTY, WA – Skagit County is one of six new “Anchor Communities” announced 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.
“Almost two hundred high school students across Skagit County were identified as experiencing homelessness last academic year by the school system,” says Kat Lohman, Director of Advancement for the Skagit Valley Family YMCA, “and at least 227 young adults experiencing homelessness in our community sought housing services in 2021. Skagit County has made it clear that we care about solving youth homelessness—now it’s time to make meaningful progress to address it.”
The Skagit Valley Family YMCA applied simultaneously with Northwest Youth Services’ application for Whatcom County. The two nonprofits will work together in coordinating each community’s initiatives to better serve youth across both counties. “We are thrilled at the momentum this initiative gives our region to ensure that all young people in Skagit and Whatcom counties have a safe, stable place to call home,” Lohman says.
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.
Skagit County together with Whatcom, Clark, Clallam, Jefferson and Thurston 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.”
The Skagit Valley Family YMCA is presently coordinating with Northwest Youth Services and Skagit County Public Health to begin implementing the Anchor Community Initiative (ACI) locally. These first steps include hiring for two key positions, an ACI Coordinator and a Youth & Community Engagement Coordinator. The Skagit County ACI Coordinator position is currently open for applications.
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 Skagit County Anchor Community at the Skagit Valley Family YMCA, contact Kat Lohman at [email protected] or visit https://www.skagitymca.org/. For more information on A Way Home Washington and the Anchor Community Initiative, visit https://awayhomewa.org/
The Skagit Valley Family YMCA is a cause-driven organization focused on three key areas: youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. We believe a strong community can only be achieved when we invest in our kids, our health, and our neighbors. Our Y programs, services, and initiatives enable youth to realize their potential; offer families ways to have fun together; and empower people to be healthier in mind, body and spirit. Our doors are open to all walks of life in our community, and we are continually striving to foster social responsibility and equity in our community.
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.