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King County Receives Large Grant To Keep Youth Off The Streets

Meghan Walker

King County has just received a large grant to help tackle youth homelessness. The money will be used to prevent young people from living on the streets.


King County has $1.5 million to spend over the next few years in an effort to keep young people from leaving home. Recent estimates show nearly 700 people under 25 lack permanent housing in the county.

King County Executive Dow Constantine says the focus is not on buying more beds, but on prevention.

Constantine: "Finding ways to keep kids from falling into homelessness. They become very vulnerable to predators within a very short time after leaving home. Keeping them at home if possible is probably the most effective strategy. What we don't want to do is build a lot of shelter without addressing the reason."

The Raikes Foundation and United Way of King County funded the grant. The county says the money will help develop three key strategies for improving how the county handles youth homelessness. Those strategies include better assessing of individuals, finding ways for prevention, and getting more accurate data about the scope of the issue.

Jackie MacLean is the director of King County's Department of Community and Human Services. She says the first step in dealing with the youth homelessness issue is research and planning.

MacLean: "We don't know whether 1,000 shelter beds or 10 shelter beds is the right number. We don't know how much of our money should go to prevention, because we really don't want kids to come into the system if we can help it. So, what is our prevention strategy? When does it start? When the children are 10 or 14, or when does it start? We haven't put the whole thing together as a system and that's what we'll be doing before next summer. So we have some goals, exactly what we need to make this system."

MacLean says the next stage of the program should be implemented by June next year.

Dow Constantine spoke to KUOW's Steve Scher on "Weekday." You can hear the full interview online.

Meghan Walker, KUOW News.

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