IN Washington state, the epidemic of homelessness has persisted for so long, even the youngest among us understand what the montage of blue tarps, tents and rows of motor homes parked on our streets means. The state has decided that unaccompanied minor youth are legally unable to consent to sharing their personal information with the state data system. This is a major barrier to ensuring we have accurate information to drive the development of policies, services, system evaluation and innovation that could lift youth out of homelessness.

In Washington state, at least 13,000 unaccompanied young people, age 13-24, receive homeless services each year. Unaccompanied means not only are they experiencing homelessness, they are surviving on their own without the benefit of being with family or kin. Youth of color and LGBTQ youth are significantly overrepresented, while young people with developmental disabilities and those exploited by the sex-trade industry are nearly invisible.

House Bill 1630 would allow young people under 18 to voluntarily consent to the collection of personally identifiable information for the state Homeless Management Information System. This is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, this proposed legislation now carries an amendment requiring minors to do so, or they will be refused access to critical services.

Perhaps most disconcerting about these budget cuts is that, right now, Washington state is in a unique position to build a coordinated, statewide system that is youth and family centered, data driven, effective at family reunification and capable of moving young people into stable housing. The new, unique Office of Homeless Youth, a committed and informed philanthropic community and a growing sector of service providers have given us unprecedented momentum to prevent and end youth homelessness.

Read the source article at The Seattle Times