Los Angeles Convening on Youth Homelessness


Report | July 25, 2012

Files: Los Angeles Convening on Youth Homelessness (PDF | 451 KB | 11 pages)

Each year an estimated 200,000 youth are homeless in California1. A January 2011 Point in Time (PIT) count of homeless youth in Los Angeles identified nearly 4,000 youth residing in shelters, on the streets, or in other places not intended for human habitation on a single night2. These unaccompanied youth, under the age of 25, come from a variety of backgrounds and have different reasons for leaving home, various experiences of homelessness, and different interactions with the homelessness system. The services made available by providers include family intervention, employment, education, and mental and physical health services. There is a limited amount of emergency shelter, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing in California to get youth off the street and on the pathway to self-sufficiency.

To frame the discussion during the convening, Heather Dearing of the California Coalition for Youth (CCY) presented, “Too Big to Ignore: Two Years Later,” a follow-up report to the initial state-wide policy agenda that was released in 2009 by the John Burton Foundation and CCY. The report provides an outlook on the current status of 11 short- and long-term strategies at the local, state and federal levels to reduce youth homelessness in California. The policy agenda also identifies key barriers that have prevented the issue of youth homelessness from fully being addressed.

A few of the strategies are:

  • Build the capacity for homeless youth providers to successfully apply for local, state, and federal funding (particularly HUD funding);
  • Better accommodate, in the foster care system, those homeless youth whose circumstances meet the legal definition of abuse and neglect;
  • Increase access to SSI benefits for homeless youth with disabilities; Include the needs of homeless transition-age youth (ages 16-24) in the creation of a permanent funding source for housing development;
  • Expand California’s Transitional Housing Placement-Plus (THP-Plus) program to serve three out of five eligible homeless former foster youth; Extend the upper age limit for foster care in California to 21; and Pursue a research agenda on homeless youth.

Beth Stokes from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) provided an overview of data on youth experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles and the available services. She acknowledged the progress and challenges remaining to get an accurate count of homeless youth, and understand the needs and experiences of these youth. She presented on: the enrollment of youth in various programs; household types by age and gender; reasons why youth left the home; the youth’s average length of stay by destination; and the destination types and prior living situations. Also, Beth provided the most recent numbers on the sheltered versus unsheltered youth population (18-24 years old) and the number of youth under 18 in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care. As noted earlier, in 2011 the PIT count revealed nearly 4,000 youth ages 18-24 experiencing homelessness, which represents eight percent of the total number of individuals experiencing homelessness at a single point in time. Of those youth, approximately 400, or 11 percent, were chronically homeless. Youth ages 18-24 were 1.9 times more likely to be in transitional housing than in emergency shelter.

Arlene Schneir of Children’s Hospital-Los Angeles and a member of the Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership (HHYP) provided an overview of their 2010 report on homeless youth in Hollywood entitled, “No Way Home: Understanding the Needs and Experiences of Homeless Youth in Hollywood.” The report provides an overview on the demographics of the youth; their experiences, service needs, and barriers to service; and recommendations for improving services and systems. She further painted a picture of the struggles and successes of providing services to youth in the Hollywood/Los Angeles area, the characteristics of the youth being served, and how HHYP works together to coordinate and utilize resources. The report states that of the 389 homeless youth surveyed in the winter and spring of 2007, 75 percent were ages 18 to 25. Younger youth under the age of 18 were more likely to identify as female; 40 percent identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning; and 5 percent identified as transgender.