Together, we have built a movement to end youth homelessness with young people, philanthropic leaders, national advocates, federal partners, researchers, and service providers in communities. Across each of these sectors, A Way Home America began identifying our shared priorities, centering youth collaboration along with racial and LGBTQ equity, and seeking change with a collective voice.
Thanks to each of you, we have shifted the conversation around youth homelessness from that of an intractable social problem to the responsibility we have to end youth homelessness.
We have created a powerful voice over the first three years of our collective work, and as we embark on the next chapter we understand that our leadership must evolve.
AWHA is moving into the next phase of our work by reconstituting our leadership to empower even greater youth voice and to place racial and LGBTQ equity at the forefront. Over the past 6 months, our Steering Committee has been exploring how our initiative must shift to most effectively launch the work we have in front of us. As part of this process, we returned frequently to our Racial Equity & Justice Core Principles, and themes around making space for greater leadership from young people and leaders of color. Although vested stakeholders – including the members of our current Steering Committee – will continue to be key voices in our collective work, we understand that to guide the work ahead, those most impacted by the crisis of youth homelessness must have primary influence.
This change makes concrete the values that guide our work. Over the next few months, AWHA’s Steering Committee will outline a timeline and process for selection of a new AWHA leadership body. Once in place, the new leadership body will have full autonomy to further refine AWHA’s initiative structure.
Through this transition, AWHA remains committed to:
- Creating space for those who have experienced homelessness to lead;
- Collaborating with young people as key decision-makers;
- Centering racial and LGBTQ equity;
- Creating collective learning opportunities by lifting up policy and practice recommendations that emerge from innovative communities leading the fight to end youth homelessness;
- Continuing to be a voice across sectors.
Since the inception of AWHA, with the critical leadership of young people, our movement has:
- Set new standards around meaningful youth collaboration. The National Youth Forum on Homelessness paved the way for substantial, impactful youth leadership through the development of a toolkit in partnership with True Colors United and the technical assistance provided directly to the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project.
- Affirmed racial and LGBTQ equity as a critical frame. We are creating a strong national dialog on these issues strengthened by the concurrent activities such as the launch of a National Working Group on Racial Equity and the pioneering SPARC Phase One Study Findings.
- Incorporated reliable data and evidence into our work. Seventeen communities (and counting) are now utilizing the AWHA Community Dashboard, and partners across AWHA offered input in the creation of the USICH Criteria and Benchmarks.
- Began to build and refine youth homelessness systems. We are testing change ideas and iterating rapidly as exemplified by the 21 communities (and counting) who have launched 100-Day Challenges on youth homelessness.
Though these achievements – and many more not listed here – exemplify countless hours of collaboration across various sectors, our work has just begun.
Now is the time to seize the momentum of the movement we have built to demonstrate that an end to youth homelessness is possible. In just a few months, AHWA will be launching the Grand Challenge which will work with up to 10 communities to effectively end youth homelessness by centering racial and LGBTQ equity. These communities will forge new, better informed practices to end youth homelessness across the nation. We look forward to sharing more information and an opportunity to join the Grand Challenge in the months to come. Sign up for updates at awayhomeamerica.org and connect with us on social platforms @awayhomeamerica.
Together, we strive to engage in Principled Struggle, a concept attributed to NTanya Lee. Learning and growing are the results of struggle. Struggle causes change and liberation. We are the ones who will show it is possible to end youth homelessness.
Megan Gibbard Kline
Director, A Way Home America