Ryllie Danylko, DC Out-of-School-Time Coalition, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-798-1470
Rachel White, Youth Economic Justice and Housing Coalition, email@example.com, 757-813-0297
Washington DC (April 25, 2023)—Youth homelessness in the District has increased by at least 15% this year, with four out of five young people experiencing homelessness because they are fleeing domestic violence. And the number of unhoused youth is likely vastly undercounted because couch-surfing young people are unlikely to count themselves as homeless on public surveys. At the same time, concern about youth involved in crime–particularly gun violence–is high. Mounting mental health crises and declining school performance–both of which were exacerbated by the pandemic–continue to contribute to bleak outcomes for young people.
Funding programs for young people in the District’s 2024 fiscal year budget is truly a matter of life and death. Their futures–and the future of our city–depend on safe, accessible, engaging opportunities such as out-of-school-time programs, flexible mental health services, supportive shelter, and tailored workforce development.
Fortunately, plenty of excellent nonprofit organizations in the District are experienced at providing these opportunities, which have proven to be effective at boosting young people’s academic and social-emotional health and well-being, preventing involvement in crime, and enabling youth to find supportive services and workforce development. Seventeen-year-old Braylon from the Community Enrichment Project discussed this need in an interview for the Youth Voices Youth Power Project.
Unfortunately, the mayor failed to make significant investments in these programs in her proposed budget, even as a recent report demonstrates the need for out-of-school-time programs is far greater than what the District’s programs have the capacity to meet.
Yes, it’s a tough budget year, with local revenue growth slowing and federal pandemic relief funds soon expiring. But the District still has billions of dollars with which to operate. The District is increasing police funding, reducing taxes for businesses, and even allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars for pickleball courts. Community organizations that support young people are told to “get creative” to fund their programs, which are saving lives.
Organizations that provide out-of-school-time programs, and services for youth who are homeless are not “nice to have,” they are essential. Sixteen-year-old Jaye from the Latin American Youth Center agrees.
The DC Council has challenging decisions to make as they work to finalize next year’s budget. But they simply can’t afford to leave out youth. Jhirbron, age 24, who works at SMYAL said it well in his interview for the Youth Voices Youth Power Project. DC youth are depending on the council to do the right thing.