Ending Homelessness Today — Youth
Youth Homelessness Documentary “The Homestretch” Airs on PBS April 13
April 09, 2015
Five years ago, a young high school student that Kirsten was working with on a theater project revealed to her that he was homeless and completely on his own. It was one of those moments in life when everything just stopped — how could this be? This kid was bright, talented, funny, and ambitious. He was going to school, attending rehearsals, and seemed so normal. But each night he didn’t know where he was going to go.
He was working hard to make something happen for himself while being alone in an impossible situation, and he was going to great lengths to hide his circumstances. For us, he put a completely unexpected face on homeless youth. And when we discovered that — at that time in 2009 — there were almost fifteen thousand kids registered as homeless in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system, we knew we had to make this film. This was a crisis and nobody seemed to be talking about it.
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Could Shelter Policies Increase a Youth’s Vulnerability to Sexual Exploitation?
April 01, 2015
Last month, the Urban Institute released a report that examines the experiences of young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth who have engaged in “survival sex” in New York City. Survival sex is a term frequently used to describe the exchange of sexual acts for money or goods that people require to live (e.g. food and shelter)
Of all the findings in this compelling report, “Surviving the Streets of New York,” one in particular should give homeless service providers pause: “Many [youth] … credited the instability and rules associated with emergency housing with driving them back to the street [and sexual exploitation].”
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Foster Kids and Homelessness: What are the Risk Factors?
March 17, 2015
When do youth become adults? If you ask the foster care system in most places, it’s at the age of 18, when youth “age out,” or are required to exit the system. More than 20,000 youth age out of foster care each year. This means that they have to learn to meet their own needs, as they no longer will have their needs met by the state. They must identify and maintain housing, find a job, and manage their own finances. Put simply: each year, more than 20,000 youth must rapidly become adults.
For many of these youth, aging out of foster care leaves them in a precarious situation in which they are vulnerable to homelessness. If we know that youth exiting foster care are particularly vulnerable to homelessness, what can we do to support this transition for the youth who are most likely to become homeless? And, how do we know which of these youth are most likely to become homeless?
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HUD Secretary Julián Castro’s Keynote Remarks, 2015 Family and Youth Homelessness Conference
March 02, 2015
These are the keynote remarks delivered by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro on the second day of our 2015 National Conference on Ending Gamily and Youth Homelessness, Feb. 20, 2015. You can also find them on the HUD website.
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Some Thoughts on the 2015 National Family and Youth Conference
February 27, 2015
Alliance staff people are back in the cold weather in Washington, DC, after an enlighteing experience at the 2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness in San Diego last week. The final count was 950 people attending, an all-time high for our family and youth conference. Traffic on Twitter was robust, giving people all over the country who couldn’t attend a taste of what was going on.
And once again, the impression we were left with was the overwhelming enthusiasm and determination that people in this field have, despite obstacles and challenges, to celebrate successes, to push themselves to do better, and never give up on the youth and families who are homeless. In the closing plenary Friday afternoon, Alliance President and CEO Nan Roman shared her thoughts on some things that had impressed her over the course of the conference. Here is a look at some of the highlights.
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See You Tomorrow at the 2015 Family and Youth Conference!
February 18, 2015
We’re looking forward to seeing you in San Diego this week for our 2015 National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. Here in DC, as you may already be aware, we just had a ton of snow dumped on us. Some of us had our flights to San Diego canceled, and we’ve had to scramble to make new arrangements. But so far it looks like we’re all going to make it.
If you’re going to be there, please consider sharing your experience on social media using the conference hashtag #NAEH15. If you aren’t attending, you can keep up with the conference on Twitter, on the Alliance blog, and the Alliance Facebook page. Alliance staff will be tweeting about conference content, events, and speakers throughout the event.
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Here’s All the Youth Homelessness Content for our Upcoming Family and Youth Conference
January 29, 2015
Here at the Alliance offices, we’re busily preparing for our upcoming National Conference on Ending Family & Youth Homelessness. (And since everyone in DC is currently wondering when the next winter storm is going to dump any snow on us, we’re more than a little excited about being in sunny San Diego next month.) As the Alliance’s youth policy analyst, I’m currently working hard on organizing the youth homelessness content. And there is going to be a lot of it!
The conference is less than a month away. If you’re going to be attending, you’re probably already thinking about what workshops you want to attend. Here’s a quick look at the wide variety of youth-focused workshops we have lined up. In these workshops, we’ll be exploring what providers, researchers, and policymakers are doing to end youth homelessness by 2020, the goal set in Opening Doors, the national strategic plan to end homelessness.
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The Alliance Supports Reauthorization of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act
January 27, 2015
Today Senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced a bill reauthorizing the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which expired on Sept. 30, 2013. (Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, and Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, also signed on to the bill as original co-sponsors.)
Ever since it was signed into law in 1974, the RHYA has been the only federal law exclusively dedicated to homeless youth, ensuring essential services like street outreach, basic shelter, and transitional living programs. The new reauthorization bill, the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, goes even further by increasing protection for youth who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. It increases support for family intervention, and prohibits discrimination against homeless youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Alliance supports reauthorization of RHYA and the improvement of its programs so it can more effectively and efficiently serve homeless youth, particularly the most vulnerable youth who are on the streets and unsheltered every night.
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Homeless Youth Count (And Should Be Counted!)
January 21, 2015
Next week, volunteers and homeless service providers around the country will venture into wooded areas, under bridges, city parks, and subway lines in order to look for people living outdoors. This nationwide effort is designed to get the best possible “point-in-time” count of people experiencing homelessness – those living in shelters, transitional housing programs, or in places unintended for human habitation – on one given night.
We have seen too often that they will miss a very important segment of the homeless population: homeless youth.
There are many reasons homeless youth are missed in Point-in-Time Counts. Some are complicated and difficult to overcome. Youth may be spending the night with a stranger and are not on the street during the point-in-time count. Many will go to great lengths to avoid appearing homeless and may be reluctant to share their housing status with a stranger. Some youth under the age of 18 may fear child welfare involvement and so they may avoid interacting with people who might alert social service agencies to their lack of housing.
Young people who are out on the streets at night can't always be found in the same locations where homeless adults are found. Often they are not using the same social service programs, and many of those programs do not report data to the community’s Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS). To conductive a youth-inclusive count, communities will have to modify their traditional counting strategies. But in the meantime, here some easy steps for communities to implement for next week’s count:
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How We Conduct Research on Homelessness Matters as Much as Our Findings
January 13, 2015
Here at the Alliance, we love solid research on homelessness. Strong studies of homeless populations give our policy team and our advocates the ammunition they need to make compelling arguments to lawmakers about the necessity of support for homeless persons.
But homeless populations arguably are one of the most difficult populations to study, because they are often transient, lack consistent contact information, and may not want to identify themselves as homeless. For this reason, one of the most valuable types of research on homelessness is actually research about research.
Confused? Allow me to explain. The value of research is dependent on the way researchers go about conducting it (i.e. its methodology). The better the methodology of the research, the more useful the researcher’s findings will be, both for policymakers and other researchers. So it’s really important that researchers develop strong methodologies.
With this goal in mind, many researchers are actually studying methodologies themselves, instead of studying particular populations. In other words: rather than studying homeless youth themselves, researchers might examine the best methods to study homeless youth. That way, they and other researchers will have solid methodologies on which to base future studies of homeless youth.
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Top 3 of 2014: 3 Things Everyone Should Know About Homelessness Now
December 30, 2014
As we head into the New Year, we're highlighting some of our most popular blog content by rerunning three of our most read blog posts. This post was originally published on Oct. 20, 2014. It's our most read post of 2014. It should be noted that as of Tuesday, Dec. 16, when President Obama signed a $1.1 trillion spanding bill for Fiscal Year 2015, the third bullet of this post it out of date. For the most recent update on funding for homeless assistance, see this post: What Does the $1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Mean for Homeless Assistance in 2015?
Here at the Alliance, we’re frequently contacted by people working on creative projects designed to raise awareness of homelessness. On an almost daily basis, we receive emails from people who have written songs, recorded videos, made movies, even designed videogames.
While the final product will vary wildly from one project to another in terms of quality and message, the artist’s intentions, invariably, are good. They feel strongly that we should do something about homelessness. We do too.
While we occasionally partner with filmmakers for the promotion of a film (e.g. we’re screening the youth homelessness documentary "The Homestretch" at our next conference; check out the trailer above), the number of inquiries we receive is too large for us to respond to all of them.
Recently we were contacted by a filmmaker who had made a film about homelessness. She was preparing to promote her film and wanted to know if we could provide her with three simple talking points that she could use during interviews with journalists.
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The Year in Review: Youth Homelessness
December 15, 2014
If you know anything about youth homelessness, you know that we’re still a long way from ending it. But looking back on 2014, you can also see that we have advanced, slowly but surely, in the right direction. While communities around the country still struggle with mounting a youth-inclusive Point-in-Time Count, we’ve seen more commitment at the federal level, from both legislators and agencies. Though the slow pace can be frustrating, momentum is building, and we’ve got many reasons to be hopeful for the future.
One of the persistent obstacles to developing solutions to youth homelessness is the difficulty in obtaining an accurate count of homeless youth. In 2013, communities finally included unaccompanied youth in their Point-in-Time (PIT) counts, which meant we were finally able to include homeless youth in our 2014 State of Homelessness report. The 2014 PIT Count was not perfect, but some communities did a fantastic job. The Alliance recently hosted several webinars that highlighted communities in Nevada and California that are setting the standard for a youth-inclusive count.
This year also marked the 40th anniversary of the 1974 Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), the only piece of federal legislation devoted exclusively to youth homelessness. The Act expired in September 2013, but this year ens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote legislation that would not just reauthorize it, but improve upon it. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill, but reauthorization is unlikely to happen this congressional session. You can be sure that in the New Year, the Alliance will join forces with our fellow advocates and our grassroots network to support it.
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Here’s How Las Vegas Got a More Accurate Count of their Homeless Youth
November 17, 2014
This January, communities across the country will make an effort to count every homeless person, both staying in their shelters and living on their streets. Congress requires that communities conduct these Point-In-Time (PIT) Counts every other year, but these days many communities are conducting them every year.
PIT Counts aren’t definitive, but they do provide a good single-night “snapshot” and a consistent methodology that allow communities to see the year-over-year progress they are making in ending homelessness. Historically, one of the shortcomings of PIT counts has been their exclusion of homeless youth populations.
Homeless youth are hard to count for a variety of reasons, but if we want to craft targeted and cost-effective solutions, it’s vitally important that they’re included. Homeless advocates and experts have devised several strategies for including them in counts.
In the homeless assistance field, there is widespread recognition that we need to do a better job counting homeless youth. Many communities have made a concerted effort to do just that. One of them is Las Vegas/Clark County. Here’s how they did it.
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New Data Show Homelessness has Declined 11 Percent since 2007
October 31, 2014
Required by Congress, HUD’s PIT Count is the only national survey that counts everyone who is staying in a shelter or other homeless programs, as well as people who are unsheltered. Its methodology is fairly consistent over time, allowing an assessment of whether the number of homeless people is growing or shrinking each year. Though it does not count every single homeless person, nor does it assess the number of people who are at high risk of homelessness because they have unstable or unacceptable housing, it is the only way that we can determine approximately how many people are homeless, the characteristics of our homeless population, and how homeless Americans are using shelters.
The 2014 PIT Count data show that numbers of homeless people is moving in the right direction.
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What Can Providers Do to Serve Homeless Youth Better?
October 28, 2014
With as many as half a million youth experiencing homelessness each year, it is surprising and frustrating, for those of us who are working to end youth homelessness, that so little research on this population exists. We want to understand the scope of the problem and its causes, as this will help us understand how to fund and design the most effective services to help as many youth as possible.
Recently, the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) of the Department of Health and Human Services released a report that gets at this last question—at least part of it. From March 2013 through September 2013, FYSB interviewed 656 young people from their street outreach programs in 11 U.S. cities between the ages of 14 and 21 who were experiencing homelessness to get an idea of what kinds of services they need. For a detailed look at their findings, check out the report’s executive summary.
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Attention Researchers: Here’s How to Improve Samples of Homeless Youth
October 21, 2014
Conducting reliable research on homeless youth is exceedingly difficult: how do you locate a transient group that often wants to be invisible? Though the most easily located youths tend to be those in shelters and/or drop-in centers, basing your research on just these populations can lead to biased data. Not only is this a problem for researchers, but it also is a problem for service providers, policymakers, and advocates working to provide programs and policies that are based on strong evidence.
Researchers started tackling these issues in a study released last month. The study’s sampling frame included 41 sites from three different types of locations in Los Angeles County.
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2 Steps We Must Take to End Youth Homelessness
October 15, 2014
So how do we end youth homelessness? That’s a big question, and there remains a lot of debate as to its answer. However, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has identified two key priority areas that we must address if we are to set the nation’s course toward ending youth homelessness.
One: We must gather more accurate information on the number of young people who experience homelessness each year. To solve a problem you must know its scope, and right now, in spite of efforts by organization across the country during the last Point-In-Time to get a youth-inclusive count, we still don’t know how many homeless youth are out there.
We do know that about half of the homeless young people counted were unsheltered. That means that in communities across the country, unaccompanied homeless youth were spending the night in places unfit for human habitation: street corners, parks, subway stations, or in abandoned buildings.
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Homeless Youth and Crime: What Does the Research Say?
October 14, 2014
In order to survive the harsh realities of living on the streets, homeless youth may commit crimes. Research has shown that homeless youth are disproportionately involved in illegal activities as compared to housed youth, but few studies have explored the risk factors that may lead these youths to the criminal justice system.
The Family and Youth Services Bureau, a division of the department of Health and Human Services, recently compiled several studies that aim to determine why homeless youth may engage in criminal behaviors. What they found paints a much richer picture of the reasons that many homeless youth commit crimes.
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Why Don’t We Have Enough Beds for Homeless Youth?
October 08, 2014
There are not enough beds for the number of homeless youth in this country. I’d like that statement to stand on its own for a moment: there are not enough beds for homeless youth in this country.
If they are lucky, a homeless youth gets a shelter bed or sleeps on a friend or family member’s couch. If they are unlucky, they sleep on the streets, in cars, in abandoned buildings; they may ride public transit all night; or they may barter sex for a place to stay. The important point here is: every night, homeless youth are turned away from shelter and housing programs because of a lack of capacity.
There are a couple of ways to solve this problem—or at least begin to address it. The obvious one is more beds. That means more money and other resources pumped into an overwhelmed shelter system. Unfortunately, government funding appears to be going the opposite direction.
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The True Colors Forty to None Summit Rocked!
October 02, 2014
Youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) make up just 4 to 10 percent of the youth in the U.S. Yet LGBTQ youth are still overrepresented among the homeless youth population, according to a recent brief by the Urban Institute. In New York City, LGBTQ homeless youth make up 43 percent of the homeless youth population.
And homeless LGBTQ youth are especially vulnerable. They experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault and higher incidences of mental health problems and unsafe sexual behaviors than their heterosexual counterparts. They experience higher rates of physical and sexual assault and higher incidences of mental health problems and unsafe sexual behaviors than their heterosexual counterparts.
Because of the lack of resources available for homeless youth, most LGBTQ homeless youth are unable to access housing and supportive services. And they often must rely on mainstream homeless youth services, rather than LGBT-specific services. Forty to None found that 76 percent of LGBTQ youth received services from mainstream providers.
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