Guest Blog: The Federal Strategic Plan and Youth Homelessness

written by naehblog
April 13, 2012

Today’s blog comes from Jennifer Ho, Deputy Director at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.  She writes today about USICH’s initiative to update the Federal Strategic Plan to include further content on youth experiencing homelessness and educational outcomes of homeless or at-risk youth.

Almost two years have passed since we launched Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. With the help and support from thousands of stakeholders across the United States we have made progress against the bold goals of the Plan by increasing investment in solutions, adopting proven tools to prevent and end homelessness, breaking down silos, and improving data collection, analysis, and reporting. We remain committed to the goals of Opening Doors and to the comprehensive approach described in the Plan.

For this year’s update to Opening Doors, we are responding to requests that additional content and clarity would be helpful in two key areas: early childhood learning and educational outcomes for youth and children experiencing homelessness; and broad strategies on unaccompanied youth up through age 24.

Barbara Poppe and I have toured many youth-serving programs across America since the release of Opening Doors. We have talked with many youth, as well as leadership from providers and advocacy groups. We have also convened an interagency dialogue across the many federal agencies that have youth-specific responsibilities. We have been focused on what is known about the magnitude of the problem and what interventions work best for which groups of youth. We have also been talking with education liaisons for children who are experiencing homelessness and advocates with expertise on early child development, early childhood education, and education generally to understand what is needed to improve educational outcomes for all children and youth experiencing homelessness.

In December 2011, our Council held the first USICH meeting devoted exclusively to homeless youth. A robust conversation led by Commissioner Bryan Samuels from the Administration on Families, Youth, and Children with four Secretaries from Labor, VA, HUD, and HHS made our charge clear. Homelessness for young adults is unacceptable. And while we have a lot to learn about the size of the problem and what works best for whom, we must take urgent action to improve support for youth experiencing homelessness.

Just last month, I had the privilege of joining USICH Chair and HHS Secretary Sebelius in Cincinnati, Ohio where we toured Lighthouse, one of the leading youth homelessness providers in the nation. Secretary Sebelius spoke with Lighthouse’s leader, Bob Mecum, as well as executive directors from youth providers in Seattle, Chicago, and Pinellas Park, Florida. The Secretary also spent time talking with youth who were living at one of Lighthouse’s shelters and in its brand new supportive housing. Hearing from youth directly has been critical in shaping a federal framework for ending youth homelessness.

Similar to the original development of Opening Doors, USICH has developed an interactive forum for our stakeholders to provide feedback into this process. The links below enable stakeholders to enter this forum and share their ideas and input in these areas by April 30:

  • Help us improve early childhood learning and educational outcomes for youth, and children experiencing homelessness.
  • Help us end youth homelessness

Feedback from this forum, combined with guidance USICH has received from youth and other experts in the field, will help USICH create:

  • A set of actionable steps that states and communities can take to improve educational supports for homeless youth and children.
  • A strong framework for preventing and ending youth homelessness that will set us on a path to reaching our 2020 goal.
  • A focused set of priorities USICH and our federal partners will pursue in both the short -and long-term.

We are excited to see your creative ideas, which will help us continue to make progress towards our vision that no one should experience homelessness—no one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.