Addressing Youth Homelessness in Washington State: Systems Dynamics and the Roles of Lived Experts

By Paul Brest, David Hoyt, Katherine Giordano
2021 | Case No. SI153 | Length 35 pgs.

Homelessness poses many challenges for young people, including risk of victimization, physical abuse, criminal justice involvement, illness, suicide, dropping out of school, mental health problems, and substance abuse, with long-term consequences for the development and wellbeing.

In 2018, Washington state began a process of systematically addressing youth homelessness. Among the initiatives were programs to involve “lived experts,” youth who had experienced homelessness and their caregivers, in developing solutions. This case examines the efforts of these lived experts and describes their recommendations. The case also discusses the role that schools can play in addressing youth homelessness.

A significant portion of this case is devoted to systems dynamics, a method of modeling complex systems. It describes systems dynamics and provides a series of diagrams illustrating the interrelationship between factors involved in youth homelessness.

Learning Objective

This case is designed to help students think through a difficult social problem, and ways that it might be addressed. Students can use this case to discuss the relative roles of lived experts and subject-matter experts in developing and implementing solutions. The case also exposes students to systems dynamics and provides an opportunity to discuss ways in which this analytical framework may, or may not, be useful in addressing social challenges.
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