Ending Youth Homelessness — Themes from the NAEH Conference

written by naehblog
February 16, 2012

Today’s guest post comes to us from Shahera Hyatt.

I would first like to start off by thanking the Alliance for explicitly including youth in this year’s conference on ending homelessness. For those of us who work day in and out on this issue, it was great to be with others to share our knowledge, experience, and passion for this work.

There were a few themes over the course of the conference regarding youth homelessness, with the first being the need for more timely and consistent data on this population. Not only was there a workshop on this topic, but Nan Roman gave considerable time to the issue in her plenary speech on the first day of the conference. She stated that even though the current data on the size and scope of youth homelessness is severely lacking (and I whole-heartedly agree), moving forward with the data we’ve got is absolutely critical.

To that end, she presented data from the NISMART-II in a new way, stating that about 96 percent of runaways under the age of 18 return home within one week (although many cycle in and out of homelessness). Policy Analyst Samantha Batko translated the data in a way that hasn’t been done before by identifying characteristics about the trajectory of youth homelessness in the hopes to shed new light on where interventions should be targeted.

This information indicates that supporting crisis interventions to help facilitate the process of returning home is essential. While in the case of the 400,000 who are unable or unwilling to return home for various reasons such as abuse or parental incarceration, utilizing housing strategies such as transitional living or permanent supportive housing would be most useful. While many of us wonder how the NISMART data holds up today, we hope that there are still valuable lessons to be learned that can be applied and implemented immediately.

The second theme was the need for a variety of different housing strategies for homeless youth and young adults to get them into stable living conditions. There was a particular emphasis on rapid re-housing, a model that has been successful for other segments of the homeless population.

The third theme was the heterogeneity of the homeless youth. This was repeated time and again by various presenters. The workshop on creating a blueprint to end youth homelessness focused largely on creating a new typology that recognizes these differences, subtly urging the audience to consider the unique needs of each youth in determining interventions. This typology identified three groups: the temporarily disconnected (this population generally retums home on their own), the unstably connected (for which family reunification may be most helpful), and the chronically disconnected (best served by permanent supportive housing or transitional housing).

I look forward to seeing how these ideas continue to evolve both in policy and in practice.

Shahera Hyatt is the Director of the California Homeless Youth Project where her focus is translating research on homeless youth for the legislative audience. Hyatt is also the co-chair of the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center’s Homeless Youth Initiative, and is a member of the Alliance’s National Advisory Council on LGBT youth.