Delegate Washington spoke about the urgent need for the Youth Empowered Society (YES) and the services they provide to youth experiencing homelessness. Emphasizing the power of agencies, advocates, and non-profits coming together in the fight, she reflects it “is absolutely a statewide issue or challenge” and has sponsored task force legislation in 2013 to establish a state task force to study youth homelessness. Delegate Washington served on the steering committee of The 2016 Maryland Unaccompanied Homeless Youth and Young Adult Demonstration Project with YES and Youth REACH MD. The task force, and this steering committee, led to the creation of a multi-jurisdiction, comprehensive survey and census of youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness to better address the issues they face.
In Annapolis, Delegate Washington has been proud to pass legislation that supports youth experiencing homelessness, including:
- HB287 2017, Hunger-Free Schools Act: Provides all students in eligible participating schools with free breakfast and lunch, every school day.
- HB462 2017, Tuition Waivers for Foster Care Recipients and Unaccompanied Homeless Youth: Unaccompanied homeless youth eligible for a tuition waiver to attend a public institution of higher education in Maryland.
- HB530 2017, Tax-Free Back to School Shopping for Backpacks: Law that reduces taxes on any backpack or bookbag purchased during the annual tax-free back-to-school shopping period.
The YES Drop-In Center, founded in 2012 by former homeless youth, is the city’s only drop-in day center for homeless youth. Youth between the ages of 14-25 find a safe space at YES where they can get a change of clothes, meet with a peer staff, and get connected to resources. YES addresses the urgent needs of homeless youth, while also supporting workforce opportunities for those experiencing homelessness and engages in the necessary system reform. Visit their website to learn more about the work they do and how you can be a part of it.