Two Things We Have to Do Before We Can End Youth Homelessness

written by Sharon McDonald
April 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.

Two: We must improve our understanding of how youth become homeless, and how we can help them escape homelessness. Understanding these factors will help us develop a homeless service system that will be more responsive to their needs.

Obviously, one of the first and most important things that youth who are homeless need is a safe place to sleep.  Unfortunately, we are far from being able to provide this for all homeless youth, and we need to do more, a lot more. But that’s not all homeless youth need. So, beyond this, what should we be providing to homeless youth?

USICH and their federal partners are seeking to build our capacity to intervene with youth by identifying evidence-based models of what works. And they have already identified several key outcomes that should be the focus of interventions for homeless youth: stable housing, employment/education, wellbeing and permanent connections to caring adults.

So, how do we get there?  What do we actually do to achieve those outcomes for youth? What evidence actually exists for approaches to serve youth?

In a March webinar, which is embedded below, experts from USICH cover these questions and also highlight initiatives in Los Angeles, Waco, New York City, and Denver to reduce the number of youth who are experiencing homelessness. Check it out.

PYIM Webinar from USICH on Vimeo.