In alignment with national efforts to support youth experiencing homelessness, the Pierce County Council has declared November “Homeless Youth Awareness Month.” In a resolution passed last week, the council affirmed its commitment to partner with local organizations working to address youth homelessness throughout the county. It also called upon Pierce County residents to support local organizations and efforts to end youth homelessness.
The council’s Nov. 5th resolution cited data from the Superintendent of Public Instruction which found that during the 2017-18 school year, 5,500 students in Pierce County lacked “fixed, regular, or adequate nighttime shelters.” Approximately 400 of those students were unsheltered. The county’s most recent point-in-time count, which counts the number of individuals experiencing homelessness on a given night in January, showed that 16 percent of individuals experiencing homelessness in Pierce County are under the age of 18, while 10 percent are between the ages of 18-24. Moreover, 10 percent of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness in the county are unaccompanied by a parent or guardian.
Students experiencing homelessness often face elevated challenges throughout the school day. According to the resolution, children experiencing homeless are twice as likely to be sick, go hungry, or repeat a grade, and are two and a half times more likely to experience depression and anxiety than their counterparts. Additionally, youth of color and LGBTQ youth experience homelessness at disproportionate rates.
The council’s efforts to raise awareness about youth experiencing homelessness come at a time when homelessness is in the local spotlight. In 2017, the City of Tacoma declared a State of Health Emergency in response to homeless encampments, and is currently working to expand shelter options ahead of a tent ban that will go into effect Dec. 1. According to the city’s website, 100 to 150 individuals and 100 families seeking shelter are turned away each day due to inadequate shelter space.
Currently, youth experiencing homelessness in Pierce County can receive support from organizations such as the Comprehensive Life Resources Beacon Center Young Adult Shelter, the Coffee Oasis Serra House, the Tacoma Housing Authority Arlington Drive Youth Campus, and REACH Tacoma. You can learn more about the council’s efforts to address youth experiencing homelessness in Pierce County on their website.