Editorial writer Jonathan Martin recently sat down with Megan Gibbard of All Home King County (formerly the King County Coalition to End Homelessness) for a live “Ask Me Anything” chat on Reddit.
Dozens of questions and comments came in from Redditors during the hour we set aside for the chat. Here are some highlights:
X_wingatAliciousness: Why did the 10 year plan to end homelessness in King County fail and what is being doing differently?
Video: What would have helped you?
Meet six young people from The Mockingbird Society talk about their experiences being homeless and what helped them get off the streets.
ColumnsEditor's note: Embracing the state's young and homeless
Op-EdsA call to action: LGBTQ teens need shelter, wraparound services
Support for this series
Reporting for this project was made possible with financial support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private, national philanthropic organization that aims to better futures for disadvantaged children in the U.S. The work was done and directed independently of the foundation.
Reddit chatJonathan Martin and Megan Gibbard of All Home King County talked about youth homelessness during a recent "Ask Me Anything" Live chat on Reddit.
Gibbard: Jonathan has a cheekier answer. But from the folks at All Home: The 10 year plan solidified our community commitment to doing something about homelessness in our community and, as a result of the plan, build 40,000 new units of housing for homeless individuals.
What’s different about the new plan?? Greater emphasis on root causes of homelessness, recognition that it will take effort and engagement of the whole community to address homelessness.
Martin: The 10 year plan failed from the start because it was the worst branding idea ever. You aren’t going to end homelessness; the best the plan could’ve done is to quickly respond when someone becomes homeless … but that’s not a catchy phrase.
To be fair, the Great Recession hitting in the middle of the plan didn’t help. The state, which pays for mental health and substance abuse treatment, rolled back the safety net so severely that we’re still dealing with the repercussions (i.e., the series of damning court rulings on mental health). But the plan also prioritized more expensive, long-term home-building over emergency shelter. So many people ended up on the streets that King County rejiggered the plan, and had to put more money into shelter. It’s a Hobbesian choice – the short term or the long term solution.
duffman_o3: Where are the homeless from? What percent of the homeless are from the area and what percent moved here?
Gibbard: 824 young people were identified as homeless and unstably housed during one afternoon/evening last January, including 133 young people who were unsheltered.
These young people were from almost every ZIP code in King County, and mostly from King County. Seventy-five of young people are from King County directly.
That said, youth also travel to Seattle because there may not be supports to help them in their home town. This is why we have a new state Office of Homeless Youth Programs to ensure we have adequate response across the state.
Seattle is also seen as a desirable place not to be homeless — people from all walks of life move here for jobs and opportunity!
fireduck: I was told by someone at DESC (Downtown Emergency Service Center) that a large percentage of homeless young people were folks who aged out of the foster care system. Is that true? It makes sense to me, I know I got help from family to build my life when I was 18-22 or so. It would certainly been hard to do without some extra money when I needed it or a place to go when college was not in session.
My wife and I were thinking of becoming foster parents and asking for someone in their teens. We have the means to provide that support even after they age out. Does that plan make sense? I know it would be hard, I’d expect a teenager in the system to come with a sizable set of problems and assumptions. One kid might be a drop in the bucket, but if that is what you can do it is better than nothing.
Martin: DSHS did a really fascinating study of kids who age out of foster care into homelessness. It’s full of totally unconscionable numbers.
Overall, 28 percent dropped from foster care to homelessness. In King County, the number was 34 percent. Biggest predictors of being a homeless ex-foster kid? if they’re African-American; if they’d been adopted, but had the adoption fail; if they went to 4+ schools in high school; if they had mental illness.
But yes, you should absolutely become a foster parent if you are interested. There’s a huge shortage right now — it’s so bad that kids freshly removed from their abusive parent’s care are sleeping in DSHS offices or being put up in hotels because their social workers can’t find an open foster home. I can’t imagine how deep that sense of abandonment must be.
mee777: Should I give money to panhandlers? Is this helpful or harmful?
Gibbard: It’s completely up to you if you give money to individuals asking for spare change — if you do, I’d follow a few simple guidelines:
- Give money without any expectations. If you’re giving 1$, it’s just that — a gift. The individual you give it to can spend it on whatever they like: college tuition, a sandwich, alcohol, dog food.
- Know that whatever an individual spends money on will likely help them in the moment and make their day a little brighter.
- Chill out. It’s pocket change to you. Give or don’t give. Always smile and acknowledge a person either way.
Frisbez: What are the best ways that an average person can get involved and help? What are some nuances/differences between working with homeless youth versus adult populations? What legislation would you support that would be helpful?
Gibbard: Get engaged by renting to or employing a young person, sharing your time as a volunteer, or by speaking up on behalf of the remarkable young people who happen to be experiencing homelessness. At the very least, say hello, acknowledge a young person who asks you for change or who is in your neighborhood, near you on the sidewalk.
Have a spare room in your home? Be a host for a homeless young person. Message me and I can connect you to this program when it begins!
And stay informed on state wide policy: Sign up for the All Home newsletter and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance policy alerts. Call your legislators when policy impacts homeless young people!
Some great places to volunteer and/or give:
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Differences between homeless youth and homeless adults? Young people have often not yet lived on their own and are learning life skills. They are learning how to do their laundry, make macaroni and cheese, navigate the FAFSA process, open a bank account — all without a safe adult in their life to support and mentor them.
Young adults are have still developing brains and decision making skills up to age 25. There is a reason why adolescents are as challenging as they are at times — they’re still forming as adults.
Count Us In is our community’s count of homeless and unstably housed young people ages 12 to 25. In 2015, 824 homeless young people were counted at more than 70 partner locations across King County; you can learn more about the 2015 count here. Count Us In data is collected through a one page survey completed by young people; one of our partners for this effort is the Seattle Public Library. Consider volunteering and help our community gain a better understanding of the experiences of homeless youth and young adults!
Volunteer opportunities are available at seven different Seattle Public Library locations: Central, Capitol Hill, Broadview, Ballard, Columbia, Southwest and University. Volunteers should be available to attend a training prior to the count, either in person (preferred) or over the phone. In-person trainings will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 13, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Street Youth Ministries (4540 15th Ave. NE) and on Thursday, Jan. 14 from 3 to 4:30pm at the 2100 Building, Community Room B (2100 24th Avenue S.). For more information or to sign up, contact Carrie Hennen at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: This post, originally published Jan. 8, was updated on Jan. 13 to include the usernames of the Reddit users posing the questions.