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Supporting Vulnerable Youth Through Philanthropy

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Spring 2022   


Supporting Vulnerable Youth Through Philanthropy

Philanthropic organizations and foundations provide vital resources when gaps in public funding exist or nonprofits need additional support to fulfill program goals. Launched in 2002 in Seattle, the Raikes Foundation works to prevent and end homelessness among youth and young adults through grant support to entities such as public schools, child welfare organizations, and juvenile justice systems.1 Casey Trupin, director of youth homelessness strategy at the Raikes Foundation, noted that philanthropies can fund a robust advocacy infrastructure that can help government officials pursue their agendas.2

According to the Raikes Foundation, prevention is the "most equitable, economic, and efficient" approach to ending youth homelessness. Prevention, along with examining student homelessness, crisis response, and advocacy, forms the Raikes Foundation's four-pillar strategy for ending youth homelessness.3 In 2011 and 2013, the Raikes Foundation engaged service providers, local government officials, current and former youth experiencing homelessness, and private philanthropic organizations to prioritize preventing and ending youth homelessness in King County.4 The team’s discussions led to the formation of Washington’s Office of Homeless Youth (OHY), which is charged with leading state initiatives to prevent youth homelessness; assisting providers in establishing best practices; and funding programs to stop discharging youth from the foster care, behavioral health, and juvenile justice systems into homelessness.5 The number of youth in Washington State exiting public systems of care into homelessness decreased 15 percent between 2013 and 2017.6

The foundation supports initiatives that are part of a coordinated system in which the community and public systems address homelessness through a joint effort rather than operating within silos. Organizations supporting juvenile justice reform, for example, also play a role in preventing youth homelessness. Critical to reducing recidivism is screening young people for housing instability and providing financial and social service supports to enable them to return home rather than enter the shelter system. "If we can at least come together and start having that conversation around the gaps, we actually think this is an absolutely solvable problem if we focus first on equity and we think about it as something that multiple agencies and partners have to own," said Trupin.7

The Raikes Foundation also supports youth voices in policy decisions by funding grants to organizations such as the Mockingbird Society, a Washington nonprofit organization that helps youth develop public speaking and advocacy skills while furthering systems change.8 During the Mockingbird Society’s 2021 virtual youth leadership summit, young advocates addressed OHY and the Washington State Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care and presented recommendations such as developing safe and affirming placements for LGBTQ+ youth, expunging criminal records, and increasing access to financial literacy.9

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Raikes Foundation partnered with Building Changes to create the Washington State Student and Youth Homelessness COVID-19 Response Fund to boost public funds to support students, youth, and young adults experiencing homelessness. Working in concert with OHY, young people with lived experience of homelessness, and a network of school administrators and housing providers, Building Changes and the Raikes Foundation prioritized funding organizations that directly serve youth representing several marginalized subgroups.10 From April 24, 2020, to March 30, 2021, the fund awarded $4.1 million in grants to 199 community-based organizations, service providers, schools, and tribes serving 25 counties across Washington.11

  1. Raikes Foundation. "About Jeff and Tricia Raikes" ( Accessed 26 October 2021; Raikes Foundation. "Progress" ( Accessed 26 October 2021; Raikes Foundation. n.d. "Youth and Young Adult Homeless Strategy," Document provided by Casey Trupin, 1 December 2021.
  2. Interview with Casey Trupin, 30 November 2021.
  3. Raikes Foundation, "Youth and Young Adult Homeless Strategy."
  4. Raikes Foundation. n.d. "Preventing and Ending Youth and Young Adult Homelessness," 3; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research. 2014. "The Secretary's Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships - Housing and Community Development in Action."
  5. A Way Home Washington. n.d. "Frequently Asked Questions," 2; Interview with Casey Trupin; Raikes Foundation, "Progress."
  6. Raikes Foundation, "Youth and Young Adult Homeless Strategy."
  7. Interview with Casey Trupin.
  8. Ibid; Raikes Foundation. "Progress"; The Mockingbird Society. "Youth Programs" ( Accessed 1 December 2021.
  9. The Mockingbird Society. "Youth Leadership Summit" ( Accessed 2 February 2022.
  10. Building Changes. "Washington State Student and Youth Homelessness COVID-19 Response Fund" ( Accessed 6 December 2021; Building Changes. "Fund FAQ" ( Accessed 2 February 2022; Subgroups include: black, indigenous, people of color, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities, parenting, expectant, immigrants, non-English speakers, and those who have experienced incarceration, sex trafficking, or domestic violence.
  11. Building Changes. 2021. "Supporting K-12 Students and Young People Experiencing Homelessness through the Pandemic: Needs and Opportunities for Systems Change."

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The contents of this article are the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Government.