On July 22, I attended and presented at the National Alliance to End Homelessness pre-conference session on ending youth homelessness, entitled Comprehensive Framework to End Youth Homelessness: The Promise and Realities. The pre-conference session included three panel discussions with Federal policymakers, youth service providers, and youth advocates. Panel discussions addressed Federal approaches to ending youth homelessness and interventions that help to improve outcomes for youth. In addition, the National Network for Youth released their Compressive Framework to End Youth Homelessness. This framework outlines the services, housing models, and goals for each of the four stages of intervention, prevention, early intervention, longer-term solutions, and aftercare.
The policy discussions on frameworks to end youth homelessness were thought provoking, but the most important part of the pre-conference session was the first panel discussion with youth advocates. Three young adults recounted their experiences with homelessness and discussed the services that helped them to find stability in their lives. One of the advocates was Jasmine, a young woman who had dropped out of high school and struggled with coping with an abusive relationship she had with her step-father. Before her 18th birthday she left her home to escape the abuse and found herself homeless. She explained the struggles she experienced trying to find a safe and regular place to live and how she found safety and stability at Sasha Bruce Youthwork in Washington, DC. “Life changed drastically for me,” she said. Jasmine is now college bound and is committed to developing a career for herself.
The youth voice is critical piece of the policy discussions we have on how to address youth homelessness at the Federal and local levels. Youth who have used these services can provide a unique understanding of which interventions work and which do not. These stories, all touching and inspirational, reminded me of the power of personal testimony when advancing policy solutions for ending homelessness.