Housing and Outreach Strategies for Rural Youth: Best Practices from the Rural Youth Survey

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Solutions Brief | October 23, 2012

Files: Housing and Outreach Strategies for Rural Youth: Best Practices from the Rural Youth Survey (PDF | 205 KB | 8 pages)

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Housing and Outreach Strategies for Rural Youth
Best Practices from the Rural Youth Survey

A. Introduction

The full extent of rural homelessness is unknown, but a 2009 count of people experiencing homelessness found that 7 percent lived in rural areas.1 Major causes of rural homelessness include high rates of poverty and unemployment, a lack affordable housing and inadequate incomes. There is an even more acute dearth of literature relating to the prevalence and plight of rural youth experiencing homelessness. What is known is that youth are faced with starker challenges than their adult counterparts, since housing and employment opportunities are even more severely limited.2 Additionally, many rural areas have limited social services options, if any. Although some communities are fortunate enough to offer services, they are typically underfunded, sometimes dramatically, and many youth lack transportation options for accessing these services when they do exist.

In an effort to understand how communities are overcoming these challenges, a short survey was sent to 91 rural youth providers in 42 states. The survey asked simple questions about what programs were being offered and to which specific populations, if any. Based on the response (from 28 providers in 17 states), the focus was narrowed to two issues: outreach and utilization of host homes. Outreach was chosen because 92.9 percent of respondents (n=26) reported that it was part of their programming. Host home utilization was chosen for the opposite reason, since only 28.6 percent (n=8) stated that they used this model. Based on this data, a follow-up survey was sent to the final respondents.

The follow-up survey asked two main questions. First, providers were asked whether they used a host home model. If they answered yes, they were asked to provide additional details. If the provider did not use a host homes model, they were asked about their alternative housing program. Second, the provider was asked how they structured their outreach to youth, and in particular, to what extent they utilized online and social networking for this end. Follow-up responses were received from 17 providers: 13 from the original survey process and four through other means.3 In the following sections, some of the successful programs and practices disclosed in the surveys will be described more fully.