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By: Columbia Legal Services, Starbucks Coffee Company and Baker McKenzie

Today, two-thousand unaccompanied homeless youth attend Washington’s schools. Thousands more young adults have nowhere to sleep at night. These are our youth – and they need help.

Because reliable statistics are difficult to obtain, the full extent of youth homelessness is largely unknown. What we do know is that the problem is real and growing. Many youth find themselves homeless and alone after having been discharged from public institutions – foster care and juvenile detention among them -- or because they ran from a dysfunctional family. In fact, 25% of former foster youth nationwide reported that they had been homeless at least one night within two-and-a-half to four years after exiting foster care.

Without a home, family support or other resources, and opportunities for work and housing, homeless youth experience circumstances where they are threatened, isolated, fearful, unprotected, undernourished, emotionally unstable and, sometimes, in danger of losing their lives. The legal issues they face can range from education to emancipation, from foster care to family law, from delinquency to domestic violence. The solutions do not come easy and the always scarce resources to support those solutions shrink further in the face of economic downturns, budget cuts and other factors outside their control. These youth need the best our legal profession has to offer and the most any of us can give.

The work of Columbia Legal Services (CLS) to address the legal needs of low-income people in need of access to justice is consistent with the views of others who respect the rule of law and understand the importance of providing access to justice to society's most vulnerable members. Through community education and empowerment, research, policy advocacy, and litigation, the Children and Youth Project at CLS works to improve opportunities for Washington’s youngest citizens to have safe and stable families and homes, quality education, health care and economic stability.

This vision has inspired dozens of the lawyers and legal staff at Starbucks and the law firm of Baker McKenzie to partner with CLS's Children and Youth Project in their work by contributing to the creation of this Homeless Youth Handbook. It has been not just an opportunity but also a privilege for these teams to combine their skills, legal know-how and energy to help CLS create this much needed resource.

Starbucks is committed to making positive impacts and strengthening the communities in which it does business. As part of this commitment, Starbucks Law & Corporate Affairs Department (L&CA) provides pro bono legal assistance in the communities Starbucks serves. The attorneys, paralegals and staff of Starbucks L&CA volunteer hundreds of hours of pro bono service each year on topics such as children’s and veterans’ rights, estate planning for first responders and debt and credit counseling for low income families, often partnering with other companies and local agencies. In addition to pro bono services, Starbucks L&CA partners (employees) support non-profit organizations that aim to increase access to justice to underserved communities. Starbucks L&CA is proud of this heritage and continuing commitment to pro bono service to the community and its contribution to this Handbook.

The global law Firm of Baker McKenzie shares this commitment to the communities in which the Firm lives and practices. Baker McKenzie engages in a robust pro bono and community service practice that inspires attorneys across the world to team with clients on important issues facing underserved and disadvantaged individuals, families and communities. Specifically, the Firm's efforts in advocacy for children and youth have engaged professionals in every type of service from legal work before the highest courts and governments of several nations, to local projects bringing books and mentoring to at-risk and orphaned youth. In legal work alone, the Firm provides over 25,000 hours of pro bono legal service a year to address the legal needs of the poor and to help narrow the social justice gap.

We owe our deepest gratitude to the many professions and professionals who serve the homeless youth of Washington each and every day. We sincerely hope that this Handbook provides a valuable resource to our state’s youth and to those social workers, counselors, teachers, police officers, health care professionals and the many others who provide daily support in the fight for justice for our homeless youth. 

Lucy Lee Helm
Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary 
Starbucks Coffee Company, Seattle

Casey Trupin
Project Coordinator for the Children and Youth Project 
Columbia Legal Services, Seattle

Phil Suse
Baker & McKenzie LLP, Chicago