Recently the i-team had the opportunity to visit Portland, Oregon and meet with a great group of people from the Multnomah County Homeless Youth System. In the Portland area, the system is divided among three focus areas: the Homeless Youth Continuum (for youth over the age of 18), the Runaway Youth System (for youth under 18), and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children System.
All youth enter the system through Coordinated Entry and are connected to the appropriate services based on their needs. This all sounds great on paper, but we saw how the system works in practice and we were impressed. All the providers ensured that youth were assessed in a trauma-informed manner and invested the time it takes to communicate with each other. They also acted on seemingly minor things like coordination of shelter operating hours or providing incident reports via a listserv to ensure they were meeting the needs of youth. They truly embodied the spirit of putting youth in the center of their activities.
For any youth, especially homeless youth, it is a scary and difficult thing to navigate a system designed by adults while experiencing the trauma of being on the streets, unstably housed, or the horrors of exploitation. It was great to see a region design a system that serves and adjusts to the needs of their customers.
Through Pathways Home, the City of Seattle has begun the process of establishing a long-term plan to transform our homeless service delivery system. To learn more about that work, check out www.seattle.gov/homelessness.
Moving forward, the lessons learned from our visit will inform the ongoing transformational work of the City and region’s system to serve youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. Interested in learning more? Let us know by submitting a comment below or e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.