The House of Representatives considered legislation regarding the collection of information from homeless youth on Friday. The bill (HB 1630), sponsored by first-year lawmaker Rep. Vandana Slatter (D-Bellevue), passed the House with strong bipartisan support.
In 2015, the legislature passed the Homeless Youth Act, which requires the Department of Commerce to collect data on youth homelessness. However, under the current law, homeless youth without a parent or guardian are not able to consent to share their information.
Nearly 40,000 students in Washington schools experienced homelessness during the 2015-2016 school year, and according to the Office of Homeless Youth, almost 6,000 were unaccompanied. However, due to the lack of accurate data collection for unaccompanied minors, many youth experiencing homelessness go uncounted.
Data collected by the Washington Homeless Client Management Information System (HMIS) is used to determine funding and resources for homelessness programs. Collecting accurate and robust data is necessary to allocate those funds properly. House Bill 1630 addresses the issue of inaccurate information by allowing unaccompanied homeless youth to consent for the collection of their information for the HMIS.
“This is a no cost technical fix that will help accurately identify the number of unaccompanied homeless youth in our state,” Slatter said. “We need accurate data to help these young people finally be visible. This can help us understand their needs and if interventions are working as intended. A lack of data should not be the reason a child cannot find a safe place to call home.”
House Bill 1630 now goes to the Senate for consideration.