Why are we advocating for the youth experiencing homelessness in our communities?


real people


Food & Self-Care Bag Delivery

One of our community service goals this year is to create a grassroots outreach program to benefit the young people in our community who are experiencing homelessness, by raising the necessary funds and securing donations to produce a minimum of 25 snack and self-care bags two times per month, which will be handed out directly to our youth homeless community.

As we’re able to develop a consistent fundraising stream, our goal is to increase our production and delivery from 50 to 100 bags per month, and then from 100 to 200 bags per month.

During delivery days, we will spend the first part of our time together assembling the bags to be given out that day, and then with the support of our parent volunteers, we’ll drive to the areas in the Portland metro area where Portland’s homeless youth tend to congregate, and personally deliver the bags to the young people in our community who are experiencing homelessnessPortland’s school-age homeless population.

Tiny House Transitional Village
Tiny House Transitional Village

Tiny Homes for Youth
Aging Out of Foster Care

Our main initiative this year to positively impact our city’s youth homelessness crisis is to focus our efforts on the ‘Housing First’ methodology.

We’re in the approval phase to work with the Portland Public School District and the Wilson High School administration to develop an educational and community-service-focused curriculum. High school students will have the opportunity to design, build and deliver ‘tiny homes’ to organizations who provide housing to students who will ‘age out’ of the foster care system before the graduate from high school — where they’re more likely to face homelessness while still working to complete their high school education.

The ‘Housing First’ methodology has a proven success record in other communities both in and outside the United States. What the successfully implemented programs show is that when basic needs are met, such as shelter, food and clothing people are much more likely to focus on getting the support they need to create a stable and sustainable future for themselves.

We’re especially passionate about this program because it provides an opportunity for high school kids to help other high school kids. This project also exposes young adults in Portland’s high schools to ways they can get involved and make a positive difference in their communities, and in the lives of kids who are in vulnerable circumstances.

The curriculum will also create a doorway for education and discussions about how and why we have a homelessness crisis in our country, and why we experience higher rates of homelessness in our city than other cities throughout the US. We see that part of our work is to be myth busters, so that as kids graduate from high school, they have a more accurate understanding of homelessness, specific ways each person can make a difference and an experience of a group of people working together to make a powerful positive impact.

We see this program as ‘just a beginning’, where important life skills like empathy-building, compassionate problem-solving, co-creative project management and community service are nurtured and developed within the high school culture, which can lead to the development of other programs supporting the social justice issues of our generation.


There are many really valuable and effective organizations in the Portland metro area that are improving the homelessness crisis in our city. Rather than start another organization, Youth Igniting Change is focusing our efforts on contributing to two organizations we most align with.

We’re proud to contribute time and fundraising efforts, to New Avenues for Youth and Operation Nightwatch, two organizations that have been making a substantial positive difference, for decades, in the lives of the people in our city who experiencing homelessness.


New Avenues for Youth (NAFY) is a 20-year Portland-based organization dedicated to the prevention of and intervention in the youth homelessness. NAFY provides foster kids, at-risk teens, and young adults experiencing homelessnes the resources and skills needed to lead healthy, productive lives.

Youth Igniting Change has been a fierce advocate and a proud fundraising partner for New Avenues for Youth (NAFY). When it comes to making a difference in Portland’s homeless crisis, Youth Igniting Change is most passionate about improving the lives of the young people in our city whose basic needs aren’t being met and who are without a safe, warm place to sleep at night.

NAFY has been doing the heavy lifting for years to ensure that even the most vulnerable young people in our community have access to what they need, so they have the best possible chance for stability in their future.

We wholeheartedly believe in the New Avenues for Youth mission and enthusiastically support their efforts whenever we can.



The Operation Nightwatch mission is to make a positive difference in the dehumanization for those experiencing homelessness in our communities, and works in service to honor the dignity of each of their guests, by providing a break from the challenges of living on the streets.

The Operation Nightwatch team is passionate about connecting one-on-one with each individual that comes through their doors. They provide meals and safe place to rest, where each individual is seen and valued.

The members of Youth Igniting Change enthusiastically support the work Operation Nightwatch is doing. We believe that bringing greater humanity to our interactions is essential to ultimately ending our homelessness crisis.

Youth Igniting Change proudly stands in solidarity with organizations that are about breaking through our outdated judgements about how people become and remain homeless. We know programs like Operation Nightwatch are essential in shifting the public perception and our current homelessness paradigm.

Youth Igniting Change’s support and participation will include visiting with the homeless guests, making and cleaning up from meals, and special projects to support the ongoing success of the organization.

We believe the value of developing meaningful connections with our community experiencing homelessness is about inclusion and caring for one another, which is why we committed to this work to begin with, and why we align with the Operation Nightwatch mission.


Homelessness in Portland has been around for about a century. It started in the early 1950’s when the cheap housing district, known as “Old Town” was demolished for the development of new and modern buildings.

Old Town was home to many transient laborers, with few people sleeping on the streets. What had once been flourishing neighborhoods became a new industrialized city scape, offering no affordable housing options for its former residents.

Through this era of Portland’s growth in development, many lost their homes, with very few social programs to assist them. The kind of public aid that existed in other US cities, which could have minimized the growth of Portland’s homeless community, wouldn’t be established for years later.

Portland’s growing homeless challenge was made worse and more complex because of the Deinstitutionalisation.  Starting in the 1970’s, institutions began releasing mentally ill individuals, with nowhere to go, leaving them with very few choices, but to live on the streets.

This new social problem added to the sub-populations who were detached from the labor market and not able to provide safe and sustainable housing for themselves.

As Portland continued to industrialize, the cost of housing increased, resulting in few possibilities and resources for Portland’s growing homeless population.

Portland’s Homeless Crisis

did you know?

The last official Portland metro area report and analysis recorded our city’s homeless population at 4,015 people, according to HUD’s definition.

The last official Portland metro area report and analysis recorded our city’s homeless population at 4,015 people, according to HUD’s definition.

The last Point In Time (PIT) count was done by “the Regional Research Institute of Human Services at Portland State University (PSU) who led the unsheltered portion of the Count, which is referred to as the unsheltered count. At our request, PSU staff also conducted a separate count of neighbors whom the community would still consider homeless, but who do not meet HUD’s definition: students living involuntarily doubled up on couches, living room floors, in basements, etc. (the “doubled-up” population), using school district data."

To understand our homeless crisis, we must look beyond just HUD’s definition and at the various levels of homelessness.

To understand our homeless crisis, we must look beyond just HUD’s definition and at the various levels of homelessness.

On the night of January 23, 2019, there were:

  • 2,037 unsheltered homeless people in Multnomah County
  • 4,015 that met HUD’s broader definition of homelessness that includes emergency shelter and transitional housing
  • Almost 10,000 people who were doubled up that night for economic reasons

*Graphics from the Point in Time Count of Homelessness Report prepared by Kristina Smock Consulting

Among the over 4,000 HUD homeless people in the Portland metro area:

Among the over 4,000 HUD homeless people in the Portland metro area:

  • 38% were people of color
  • 12% were youth ages 24 and younger
  • 35% identified as female
  • 1% identified as transgender
  • 8% were families with children (including at least 317 children)
  • 44% were chronically homeless
  • 72% had disabling conditions
  • 36% had experienced domestic violence with 28% fleeing from domestic violence
  • 12% were veterans
  • 35% were first time homeless citizens

*Graphics from the Point in Time Count of Homelessness Report prepared by Kristina Smock Consulting

A Home for Everyone -- a non-profit and local government program -- has been working to provide permanent housing to 8,990 people and has 3,490 people in prevention projects, as of the 2019 PIT Count.

A Home for Everyone -- a non-profit and local government program -- has been working to provide permanent housing to 8,990 people and has 3,490 people in prevention projects, as of the 2019 PIT Count.

However, the number of unsheltered individuals has stayed flat since 2015. This shows that the number of households at-risk of homelessness or are homeless is growing at a rate equal to or greater than the support resources being provided.

Portland tends to attract homeless because:

Portland tends to attract homeless because:

  • We have milder weather than that in the midwest and east coast regions
  • Portlanders are generous -- our community spends millions of dollars -- from tax dollars and private donations each year to help support and work towards our homeless crisis
  • New vagrancy laws brought by our public officials are often blocked by the courts
  • The Portland Police Force and local residents are more tolerant in letting the homeless sleep in the parks, on sidewalks and under bridges
  • The homeless in Portland are visible enough that non-profit relief efforts have and continue to create innovative ideas which other US cities have adopted.

While other US Cities have seen success by implementing “Housing First”, part of a 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness, which provides homeless individuals and families rent free apartments while they participate in programs to assist them in creating sustainable, permanent living situations -- Portland has not been able to maintain the consistent sustainable solution to solving our city’s homeless and affordable housing crisis.

Photo Credit,

Youth Igniting Change Initiatives

How we’re supporting and caring for our city’s homeless

Middle School and High School Education

Youth Igniting Change Alliance members are dedicated to dispelling the myths about how people end up and remain living on our city’s streets and in our shelters.  Our Youth Leaders will visit Portland area Middle and High Schools to share relevant and appropriate information about:

  • Portland’s homeless history
  • The current conditions our homeless are facing
  • Political initiatives that are being pursued to significantly reduce our homeless population
  • Community service programs to care for the individuals and families who are living on the street’s in our city
  • Suggestions about ways to participate and contribute to the people in our city that need our care and assistance
Monthly Alliance Building Events

One of Youth in Action’s values is that we’re better together and that by working and creating together, we can make a significant positive impact.

Youth Igniting Change Alliance events are a place where big-hearted and innovative young people can connect with other changemakers — to amplify their voice, advance their activism and share their community services experiences with their peers.

We offer a supportive youth community that will create activism, service and giving events that will be more like #GivingForwardParties.

Some of Youth Igniting Change’s ongoing events include:

Homeless Care Bag Assembly Volunteer-Socials

Here’s how it goes … you let us know how you’re already working to or wanting to make a positive difference in your community and #BAM, just like that, your name gets added to our #GivingForwardParty invite list.

Your entry ticket to our monthly events is a box or bag of an item from our Homeless Care Bag Items list that the men and women living on Portland’s streets most need.
Our ‘Socials’ include music, food and an opportunity to connect other young people who care about making a difference in their community.  You’ll leave our Volunteer-Social with several care bags to keep in your car or backpack, to have handy to hand out when you see someone on the street who needs a dose of compassion or a little extra care.

Youth Igniting Change Partnership Events

Portland is a generous community, including many organizations that are making a difference by offering specific and specialized care for our community’s homeless.  As Youth Leaders in our community, we provide support to our city’s most valuable homelessness advocacy and care organizations, by partnering with them to support their ongoing programs and special initiatives.

Homeless Site and Camp Clean-up Events

We coordinate and support events in our city to clean up and care for the areas where our homeless live and congregate.  We deliver “sharps containers” and garbage bags, also taking away garbage and unwanted and discarded supplies.

Pancake Breakfast + Sack-Meal Take-away

Come practice your pancake flipping skills, serve a warm breakfast and connect with our city’s homeless community.  Take a minute or 10 to talk with the men, women, children and elderly that are living on our city streets or in our shelters.  You’ll be so happy you did.  And then send them on their way with some kind words and their next meal.

Outreach & Connection Events with Our Homeless Community

If you want to experience the real value and gift of community, seek out opportunities and ways that you can be with people in your city that you may think you have very little in common with.

Some of the ways that we do this through Youth Igniting Change is by:

  • Handing out personal care packages
  • Delivering food donations
  • Collecting and distribute shelter camp supplies
  • Participating in severe weather collection drives and delivery events

*The Youth Igniting Change Circle of Advisors approves all Alliance Initiatives and ensures that events are chaperoned and supervised.