The legislature declares that thousands of homeless youth in WA go to sleep without the safety, stability, and support of a family or a home. Furthermore, this population is exposed to an increased level of violence, human trafficking, and exploitation, which has resulted in higher incidences of substance abuse, illness, and death.
This act further stipulates the importance of coordinating statewide programs to combat youth and young adult homelessness by using innovative approaches that can ensure the health and safety of both populations while serving them together, which allows for alignment with federal programs and funding opportunities.
This act amends several RCWs related to services provided by the Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection programs, including:
§ Allowing a youth to be placed by the Department in a HOPE center (as a result of a CHINS petition), which is licensed by the DCYF to provide temporary residential placement and other services to street youth;
§ Amendments that specify the Department of Children, Youth, and Families as being responsible for appropriate placements rather than the Department of Social and Health Services; and
§ Emphasis on street outreach services, which include crisis intervention, providing emergency supplies, case management, and referrals through community-based outreach or drop-in centers.
Furthermore, this act specifies that HOPE Centers are required to have:
§ A license issued by the DCYF, including staff who meet licensing qualifications;
§ A case manager who shall be known as a placement and liaison specialist
§ Preference given to case managers who have experience working with adolescents and are cross-credentialed in mental health and chemical dependency.
SB 5470 amends current statute related to ways in which to combat youth and young adult homelessness by stating that while best practice may have previously been identified as segregating youth and young adults, in some instances, innovative approaches can ensure the health and safety of both populations while serving them together, allowing for alignment with federal programs and funding opportunities, application of adolescent neurodevelopment research, and maximization of capacity to serve more dispersed populations in rural areas.
Finally, SB 5470 requires the Office of Homeless Youth Prevention and Protection programs to:
§ Gather data and outcome measures;
§ Initiate data-sharing agreements; and
§ Develop specific recommendations and timelines to address funding, policy, and practice gaps within the state system for addressing the 5 key components in RCW 43.330.700.