SB 5932 creates the office of homeless youth prevention programs within DSHS. The measurable goals of the program are to:
- Reduce each year the number of new homeless and runaway youth to zero in 10 years by identifying programs that reduce initial causes of homelessness,
- Decrease the number of existing homeless youth,
- Increase reconciliation rates with the homeless youth’s parents or guardians by decreasing the length and repeat occurrences of youth homelessness and family, or guardian, separation, and
- Decrease youth homelessness to zero.
The office must be operational no later than January 1, 2016.
Among other functions, the office is required to gather data and outcome measures in order to develop a comprehensive plan for eliminating unaccompanied homeless youth, including specific recommendations and timelines to address funding, policy, and practice gaps within the state system for addressing stable transitional housing. A report must be submitted to the governor and the legislature by December 1, 2016.
The office is charged with overseeing programs such as HOPE Centers and Crisis Residential Centers, and may give grants to providers who house homeless youth in transitional shelters.
An advisory committee, who will work with the prevention program staff, is created and will be composed of legislators, parent advocates, service providers, and other stakeholders knowledgeable in the prevention of youth homelessness, foster care, and family reunification. The advisory must have its initial meeting no later than March 1, 2016. SB 5932 directs the joint legislative audit and review committee to conduct a review of state-funded programs that serve unaccompanied homeless youth to determine what performance measures exist, what statutory reporting requirements exist, and whether there is reliable data on ages of youth served, length of stay, and effectiveness of program exit and reentry. Where statutory reporting requirements do exist, the joint legislative audit and review committee shall review the programs’ compliance with relevant statutory reporting requirements. The programs reviewed may include, but are not limited to, HOPE centers as described in RCW 74.15.220 and crisis residential centers as described in RCW 74.13.032.
This bill also establishes the Washington state homeless youth alert database to identify all homeless youth or runaways, assisting the public in notifying law enforcement, and CPS to provide emergency shelter to the homeless youth, and to contact the youth’s parents or legal guardian.
SB 5932 defines a number of terms and adds language to the definition of neglected child to include an unaccompanied homeless youth because of the harm to the youth’s health, welfare, and safety. Lastly, the homeless families service fund is recodified as a section in the family reconciliation act, which is recodified to include subchapters headed “homeless youth prevention act.”
Note: this summary provides some of the highlights of the bill but is not intended to be all inclusive.