Cocoon House advocate Morgan Huber (right) talks with teens gathered at the nonprofit’s U-Turn drop-in center on Broadway in Everett Dec. 13 2016. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Cocoon House advocate Morgan Huber (right) talks with teens gathered at the nonprofit’s U-Turn drop-in center on Broadway in Everett Dec. 13 2016. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Bipartisan bill aims to curb homelessness among young adults

Rep. Julio Cortes, D-Everett, and Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, want to fund temporary housing for those exiting treatment at ages 18 to 24.

OLYMPIA — After spending nearly a decade working at a local nonprofit supporting homeless youth, Everett Rep. Julio Cortes wants to pass legislation to provide housing for young adults coming out of behavioral health inpatient care.

Statewide, 1,097 young adults ages 18 to 24 year olds became homeless in 2021 within a year of exiting inpatient treatment, according to a report from the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Eighty-four of those were in Snohomish County, according to the report.

House Bill 1929 would create at least two shelters, one on each side of the state, for people ages 18 to 24 to use after exiting behavioral health inpatient services.

Cortes, a Democrat, previously worked at Cocoon House, a local nonprofit providing shelter and services for homeless youth as a case manager and later public relations director.

When youth age out of foster care, nonprofits and the state have fewer services they can provide, leaving them to fend for themselves a bit more, he said.

Without that support, he said, many of them fall right back into homelessness. In the 2022 point-in-time count, Snohomish County identified 70 people aged 18 to 24 as homeless.

“When that happens, we are failing young adults, as they later become chronically homeless adults,” said Cortes, the bill’s prime sponsor.

The proposed shelters would be available for young adults for up to 90 days. There, people would be able to receive services and support with the hope they can find long-term housing by the end of their stay.

The services could include continued behavioral health treatment, transportation or employment assistance and help with rental applications.

Providing 12 to 20 beds in the state for at-risk young adults won’t meet the demand. This bill is about chipping away at the complex problem of homelessness, Cortes said.

Rep. Carolyn Eslick, R-Sultan, said if young adults don’t have support and services when they come out of inpatient care, their recovery can easily backslide.

“We have a good chance of saving these kids if we can get them into continued treatment,” said Eslick, a co-sponsor of the bill.

The proposal is expected to cost around $2.2 million per year, according to the state’s office of financial management.

In Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed supplemental budget, he included $3 million for the initiative.

To Cortes, that money will help ensure the state makes good on previous investments it has made for services to keep young people off the streets.

When young adults become chronically homeless adults, it is much harder and much more expensive to get them into recovery and long-term housing.

“We need to support them now so they get the help they need and break the cycle of homelessness,” Cortes said.

After unanimous approval from the House Appropriations Committee on Saturday, the bill is expected to hit the House floor for a vote.

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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