Communities Engaged to End Youth Homelessness

Communities across the country are using the Federal framework to develop systemic and client-level responses to end youth homelessness.  The headline article in this issue discusses efforts in Seattle/King County, Washington and Cleveland, Ohio, recently shared with the Council. Many other communities across the country are also taking steps to end youth homelessness, and using the Framework to guide their efforts.

The Framework focuses on two key strategies: getting to better data and building capacity for better service delivery. These strategies serve as the foundation for our efforts to achieve four core outcomes for youth: stable housing, education/employment, well-being, and permanent connections. 

On the data strategy, several communities are using experience from Youth Count 2013! and the subsequent report from the Urban Institute that highlighted promising practices from the study sites, communities are planning their 2014 Point-in-Time (PIT) counts to achieve more confident estimates of youth homelessness in their community. 

  • In Massachusetts, the State Interagency Council is leading an effort across all Continuum of Care (CoC) regions to implement a common methodology using best practices and a shared survey tool to gain a more accurate understanding of the scale, profile, and needs of unaccompanied youth. 
  • In California, a grant from the California Wellness Foundation to the California Homeless Youth Project in collaboration with the University of California Berkeley will fund capacity building efforts to better count homeless youth across the state.
  • In Minnesota, new funds appropriated by the State legislature for its Homeless Youth Act are being awarded in grants to organizations focused on ending youth homelessness. In another initiative, several Twin Cities metro youth-serving organizations are testing data sharing strategies as a first step in a coordinated assessment approach for youth. The goal of this effort is to ensure that youth do not “start over” each time they seek service from one of these organizations.
  •  In Houston, Texas, the Coalition for the Homeless has partnered with One Voice Texas, a statewide policy organization to assemble a work group for the 2014 Count that includes broad representation from the Runaway and Homeless Youth lead agency, Texas Homeless Education Office, CoC youth providers, juvenile corrections, academia, foster care system, and youth advocates.  As an additional strategy, a researcher from the University of Houston will facilitate focus groups to plan for ongoing research using targeted sampling. Based on the findings, One Voice Texas will advance policy and program initiatives at the state level. 

Youth Count 2013! study sites also surveyed youth as part of their PIT Count. In New York City, unaccompanied youth were encouraged to visit drop-in centers where volunteers administered a 27-question survey.  The December 2013 Report prepared by Darrick Hamilton and Lance Freeman for the New York City Coalition on the Continuum of Care offers significant insight into the housing status of surveyed youth based on their demographic profiles.  One finding documented that disconnected youth – those not enrolled in school or working – were more likely to have stayed outdoors, in a subway station, or in another more vulnerable location than their peers enrolled in school or employed who were more likely to have stayed with a friend or relative.

In Connecticut, Yale University’s Dr. Derrick M. Gordon released Invisible No More, the state’s first report at a Legislative Forum in December 2013.  Dr. Gordon interviewed 98 young people as well as key informant and focus group interviews.  The study found that youth often are not connected to services, and populations within the youth who are most vulnerable are LGBT, trafficked, and/or have involvement with the juvenile justice or child welfare systems.  The Study made a number of recommendations including the creation of a planning task force to develop strategies to address housing insecurity for young people.

There has been forward movement on efforts to address youth homelessness all across the country.  By using the Federal framework to get to better data and to build coordinated service capacity we will continue to make progress toward our goal to ensure that all youth have a place to call home.