My name is Zak Franet, and I am incredibly excited to be writing for the Street Sheet’s Youth Edition. As a homeless advocate with lived experience, I could not stress the importance more of providing personal testimonials around the issue of homelessness, and as such, applaud the Coalition on Homelessness’s efforts to bring our stories into the light.
I am 23 years old and heavily involved in advocacy and youth empowerment in the City. One avenue for this advocacy has been through the Youth Policy and Advisory Committee (YPAC), a council of homeless and formerly homeless youth. The committee was formed in October of 2016 as a perquisite for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant that San Francisco applied for. In the ten months we have existed as a body, we’ve gone through many changes.
Initially our purpose was to give our input on the grant application. Youth of all walks of life told their truth about what made our City unique, what we were doing well, what was still needed, and why San Francisco should be chosen as a recipient of the grant. By the start of the new year, we had received the news that San Francisco had been chosen to receive an influx of money to help address youth homelessness. Our group dynamic has gone through a shift as a result of this announcement.
The YPAC has become an open platform for San Francisco’s youth to have direct access to service providers as well as government officials who will be directly affecting the types of services they receive. We have spoken with members of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, the Department of Health, and numerous other entities in order to expand our knowledge of available services while simultaneously broadening the horizons of those providers in regards to what was still needed. Our monthly meetings have become regular attended forums critiquing the system by those who access it.
In addition, the YPAC has continued to be involved with the grant, providing feedback and insight at the YHDP planning meetings as to what is needed in our community to help end youth homelessness. We have updated the Local Homeless Coordinating Board (LHCB) on our progress and issues pertaining to our community. At the last LHCB meeting, our committee received widespread media attention, making the front page of the Examiner. Youth from our committee will be selected to be members of the governing body responsible for approving funding for all projects regarding the YHDP.
In short, the YPAC has been a vehicle for advocacy and policy work for many a youth throughout San Francisco. We have participated in local, statewide, and national advocacy. We have evoked the interest of the press, elected officials, and public. The YPAC has functioned as a banner that those committed to ending youth homelessness have rallied around. I can’t wait to see what is in store for the advocates who have been involved in this project.
I would like to give a special shoutout to the Larkin Street Youth Advisory Board and the LYRIC Fellows. They have been tireless in their determination to participate in this process from the very beginning, and have been bulwarks in carrying the message. They have taken advantage of every opportunity to get the message out there and advocate for their peers. I am inspired by their efforts on a regular basis.
We will continue to apply street politics to the arena of public policy while remaining true to our roots.
Youth Policy and Advisory Committee