Three Experts React, Discuss Youth Framework in Briefs

As part of the June 2012 Council meeting on youth homelessness, USICH sought input from leaders in the field: CEO of Lighthouse Youth Services Bob Mecum, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness Nan Roman, and State Coordinator for the McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth program at the Colorado Department of Education and the Vice President of the Board of Directors for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth Dana Scott. Each leader submitted a brief to USICH summarizing his or her expertise on youth homelessness and recommended actions the country and the Council should take to help achieve the goal ending youth homelessness by 2020. 

Bob Mecum details the services provided by Lighthouse Youth Services in Cincinnati, OH to runaway and homeless youth  and the challenges in serving this population with many barriers to stability.  He speaks specifically about greater alignment of programs for youth aging out of the child welfare system and for LGBTQ youth, both groups that are at a higher risk of falling into homelessness for a variety of reasons. He also suggests a policy change for RHY programs that would enable them to use street outreach grant funds for both outreach and aftercare services; this would extend service providers reach without additional funding required. Mecum stresses the importance of good data collection systems, asserting the framework’s recommendation that government systems work to  merge RHYMIS and HMIS to help gather more accurate data on the youth population. Lastly, he addresses youth employment, introducing methods Lighthouse Youth Services has utilized, using WIA funded programs, to eliminate barriers to employment for youth.   

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Nan Roman of the National Alliance to End Homelessness catalogues the increasing problem of youth homelessness,  provides three recommendations for the future, and comments on the proposed youth framework presented to the Council. She asserts that improved data is essential to “size and address the problem to scale.” Roman first suggests merging RHYMIS and HMIS to allow for a better analysis of youth data and secondly requiring youth providers and local Continuums of Care to include youth in the HUD mandated point in time counts in 2013. She also stressed the importance of targeting high-need youth, and proposes that HHS and HUD should “incentivize youth-targeted programs to serve the most vulnerable youth by providing bonus points in the competitive granting process to these programs.” Finally, Roman discusses how focus must be placed on connecting homeless providers serving youth with mainstream programs such as child welfare, TANF, juvenile justice, and housing. Utilizing these services effectively will prevent youth from becoming homeless and facilitate youth returning to their families. 

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Dana Scott affirms many of the points made by the Proposed Framework for Ending Youth Homelessness: the importance of school engagement, educational attainment, and aligning interagency efforts. She goes on to make a series of recommendations for improvements to the Framework. These recommendations include keeping focus on youth-centric strategies and interventions, integrating and utilizing U.S. Department of Education data, further defining prevention models, and addressing barriers for homeless youth in accessing child welfare, health, and public benefit services.  Finally, Scott recommends that youth who are experiencing homelessness should be engaged as full partners in federal, state, and local efforts. 

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