Ending Homelessness Today — Youth
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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Including Youth in the 2014 PIT Count: Some Thoughts from the Experts
September 30, 2014
January is just three months away, which means that many communities are already planning their methodologies for the upcoming 2015 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count. Unless we know whether the numbers of homeless people are going up or down, we can’t know whether our interventions to help them are working, or whether the resources we’re targeting at them are actually helping.
Counting unsheltered homeless persons is always a challenge, but counting unsheltered youth can be even harder. Youth tend to have different social habits than adults, and they congregate in different places and at different times of day. So strategies that communities use to count unsheltered adults may not be as effective. That’s why, earlier this month, the Alliance brought together several experts to discuss their strategies for counting homeless youth.
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Here are 3 Ways We Can Improve Counts of Homeless Youth
September 23, 2014
Every other year, on a single night in January, communities around the country are required to count all homeless individuals—even those who are not in a shelter. As you can imagine, this is a fairly daunting task: many unsheltered homeless do not want to be found. They may fear for their safety, or they may be worried about coming into contact with law enforcement. Counting unsheltered persons often is even harder with LGBTQ youth, who tend to be more wary of strangers. They may go to great lengths to stay hidden, which means that communities will be unable to get an accurate representation of this population.
As communities begin planning for the January 2015 count, they may be considering improvements to counting homeless LGBTQ youth. Even by conservative estimates, they are overrepresented in the homeless population but underrepresented in counts. This trend is likely to continue, as recent years have seen an increase in homeless LGBTQ youth. As this population continues to rise, it is critical that we find effective strategies for counting these youths.
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A Senate Committee Passed a Bill to Help Homeless Youth. Now it’s Congress’s Turn!
September 22, 2014
Last Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill by a 15-3 vote with bipartisan support that would reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which had expired on September 30, 2013. Now it’s the full Senate’s turn to vote on this extremely important piece of legislation, which not only reauthorizes the previous version, but includes several improvements on it.
Ever since it was signed into law in 1974, 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, “Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act,” goes even further by increasing protection for youth are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, increasing support for family intervention, and prohibiting discrimination against homeless youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
It should come as no surprise that we at the Alliance strongly support the bill.
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Youth Homelessness is More Than ‘Adult Homelessness, Junior’
September 08, 2014
Here is how a 20-year-old described his vision for a Housing First approach to helping homeless youth in Canada. This description comes from Conor, a member of the Youth Leader’s Committee of The Street Youth Planning Collaborative in Ontario. You should be pleased to learn that it accurately describes what is already happening in the best homeless youth provider programs across the United States.
“Some people are more independent than others, some have different issues and things like that. It’s a really great idea because it will give people a chance – a fighting chance. The way I would imagine it is like if there is some young person who is at risk of being homeless, they would have an interview with someone who would assess their needs, their strengths and weaknesses and build their plan of care around that.” – "A Safe and Decent Place to Live: Towards a Housing First Framework for Youth."
The Housing First approach prioritizes getting homeless people into housing immediately, without forcing them to meet preconditions, then providing them with the services they may need in order to remain stably housed. Over the years, this approach has led to significant declines in homelessness among veterans, families, and the chronically homeless. Yet an important component of the strategy, rapid re-housing, has yet to be applied to the problem of homeless youth on a national scale. If it can work for everyone else, why can’t it work for homeless youth?
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The Homeless Children and Youth Act: Does It Address the Real Problem?
August 14, 2014
Tens of thousands of families with children and unaccompanied youth go unsheltered every night in this country. They are homeless, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has programs to respond to their crises. But they are not getting the help they need because there is not enough money to serve them all.
At the same time, there are millions more families, children, and youth who are housed every night, but not stably or affordably so. They need help to pay for their housing, and HUD has rental assistance that would solve their problems. But only one in four who is eligible will get that assistance, because, again, there is not enough money to serve them all.
Neither literally homeless nor poorly housed youth or families with children are getting the help they need because both homeless services program and housing assistance programs are severely underfunded.
This is why it is perplexing that a new bill, The Homeless Children and Youth Act (S.2653), proposes to solve the problem of youth and families with children who are homeless or who lack affordable housing by expanding the definition of homelessness to vastly increase the number of people who are eligible for HUD’s crisis homeless assistance. But this bill makes these changes without providing any additional resources.
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We’re Going to Have a Lot of Youth Homelessness Workshops at our DC Conference
June 04, 2014
Last year, the Department of Housing and Urban Development called for communities to make a more concerted effort to include unaccompanied homeless youth, up to age 24, in the homeless census. In January 2013’s point-in-time count, volunteers counted about 47,000 unaccompanied homeless children and youth. Like we pointed out in yesterday’s blog post, given how hard it is to find homeless youth, that’s almost certainly an undercount.
We estimate that during a year around 550,000 unaccompanied, single youth and young adults up to age 24 experience a homelessness episode of longer than one week, approximately 380,000 of them under the age of 18. That’s why each year our national conference here in DC includes many workshops exploring ways to end youth homelessness. This year is no different. Here’s a look at what you can expect to find in this year’s Youth Track.
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