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FindingsHomeless youth.

(1) The legislature finds that every night thousands of homeless youth in Washington go to sleep without the safety, stability, and support of a family or a home. This population is exposed to an increased level of violence, human trafficking, and exploitation resulting in a higher incidence of substance abuse, illness, and death. The prevention and reduction of youth and young adult homelessness and protection of homeless youth is of key concern to the state. Nothing in chapter 69, Laws of 2015 is meant to diminish the work accomplished by the implementation of Becca legislation but rather, the intent of the legislature is to further enhance the state's efforts in working with unaccompanied homeless youth and runaways to encourage family reconciliation or permanent housing and support through dependency when family reconciliation is not a viable alternative.
(2) Successfully addressing youth and young adult homelessness ensures that homeless youth and young adults in our state have the support they need to thrive and avoid involvement in the justice system, human trafficking, long-term, avoidable use of public benefits, and extended adult homelessness.
(3) Providing appropriate, relevant, and readily accessible services is critical for addressing one-time, episodic, or longer-term homelessness among youth and young adults, and keeping homeless youth and young adults safe, housed, and connected to family.
(4) The coordination of statewide programs to combat youth and young adult homelessness should include programs addressing both youth and young adults. In some instances, best practices mandate that youth programs and young adult programs be segregated in their implementation; however, in other 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. The legislature further finds that the differing needs of these populations should be considered when assessing which programs are relevant and appropriate.
(5) To successfully reduce and prevent youth and young adult homelessness, it is the goal of the legislature to have the following key components available and accessible:
(a) Stable housing: It is the goal of the legislature to provide a safe and healthy place for homeless youth to sleep each night until permanency can be reached. Every homeless young adult in our state deserves access to housing that gives them a safe, healthy, and supported launching pad to adulthood. Every family in crisis should have appropriate support as they work to keep their children housed and safe. It is the goal of the legislature that every homeless youth discharged from a public system of care in our state will not be discharged into homelessness.
(b) Family reconciliation: All homeless youth should have access to services that support reunification with immediate family. When reunification is not possible for homeless youth, youth should be placed in the custody of the department of children, youth, and families.
(c) Permanent connections: Every homeless young adult should have opportunities to establish positive, healthy relationships with adults, including family members, employers, landlords, teachers, and community members, with whom they can maintain connections and from whom they can receive ongoing, long-term support to help them develop the skills and experiences necessary to achieve a successful transition to adulthood.
(d) Education and employment: Every homeless young adult in our state deserves the opportunity and support they need to complete their high school education and pursue additional education and training. It is the goal of the legislature that every homeless young adult in our state will have the opportunity to engage in employment training and be able to access employment. With both education and employment support and opportunities, young adults will have the skills they need to become self-sufficient, self-reliant, and independent.
(e) Social and emotional well-being: Every homeless youth and young adult in our state should have access to both behavioral health care and physical health care. Every state-funded program for homeless youth and young adults must endeavor to identify, encourage, and nurture each youth's strengths and abilities and demonstrate a commitment to youth-centered programming.
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