On this second anniversary of the release of Opening Doors, it is important to look back and ahead. When we were developing the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, we knew that for the first time we were setting a goal to end youth homelessness and set our sights on 2020. The Cabinet Secretaries who lead the Council knew that this was a vulnerable population that we needed to help, and in the Plan we outlined what generally would be needed:
- Individual goal-based service planning
- On-going support services connected to mainstream resources
- Independent living skills training
- Connections to supportive and trustworthy adults and support networks
- Employment and education
Opening Doors goes on to say: “Youth also need shelter, transitional programs, and services that emphasize stabilization and reunification with families when appropriate…Youth shelters provide a safe alternative to adult shelters and the dangers of victimization and life on the streets. Transitional living programs and supportive housing for some youth with special needs provide housing, life skills, and services to young people who cannot be reunited with their families.” The Plan called for “more collaborative work across systems” and help transitioning from youth-specific systems to adult service systems. There was a call for more research and better tools for counting youth.
As we at USICH looked at momentum being built across the country ending chronic homelessness, Veterans homelessness, and family homelessness, we didn’t see that same momentum around youth homelessness. Our federal partners have not only restated their commitment to this population and this goal, but have developed more specific next steps. The Commissioner of HHS’ Administration on Children, Youth, and Families Bryan Samuels presented this information at the Council meeting on June 12 and you can find more information in this newsletter around the new framework for ending youth homelessness endorsed by the Council and what the areas of action the framework is focused.
In an ideal world, every child would have support from caring adults that make up a family, and a safe, stable place to call home. Stabilizing and strengthening families will help prevent youth homelessness. But when youth need to leave home, they need safe interventions. It’s not enough to say we need access to shelter, housing, and supportive services. We need to better understand that the way in which those services are provided make all the difference in engaging youth, helping those who can return home, and supporting those who can’t have all the opportunities they each need to live up to their full potential. We call upon all communities to look at ways in which you can help advance interventions that help youth achieve their goals, improve our understanding of the size of the problem and what’s needed to end it. Work in your communities to improve collaborations between youth programs and adult programs and between targeted homelessness assistance programs and larger mainstream systems. With these strategies, you can help end youth homelessness in your community and in our nation by 2020.