When it comes to providing services to the homeless young people, it is often said that “youth are not just mini-adults.” Youth require developmentally appropriate interventions tailored to their needs and circumstances. However, this need is often not reflected in existing plans to end homelessness, treating individuals who experience homelessness as a single group and not adequately addressing the unique needs of children, youth and young adults. As a result, many youth who turn to adult services experience threats, theft, or harassment, or are turned away because they don’t necessarily fit within the constraints of the environment.
In order to directly address the unique needs of young people experiencing homelessness, in January the California Homeless Youth Project (HYP) released the first-ever state action plan focused on ending homelessness for youth and young adults. More Than a Roof: How California Can End Youth Homelessness aims to align state and local policymakers, service providers, and government agencies towards ending youth homelessness by 2020, as set out by USICH’s federal strategic plan Opening Doors.
11/20/2012 - Keeping the Momentum for Ending Youth Homelessness: Reflections from Indianapolis and Beyond
Last week, the Family Youth Services Bureau of HHS’s Administration on Children, Youth, and Families hosted two days of training and workshops on addressing youth homelessness at the National Runaway and Homeless Youth Grantee Conference. More than 550 participants from around the country met in Indianapolis to share knowledge and learn from others as we work together to end youth homelessness by 2020.
The Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) provider community has thoroughly embraced the Opening Doors goal to end youth homelessness by 2020. The goal was mentioned throughout conference workshops, it was written in conference materials, and in the hallways of the hotel I heard this goal in discussions among providers, administrators, and policy professionals. It is inspiring to see the resounding commitment and enthusiasm for this ambitious goal has spread outside of Washington, DC and into communities throughout the country.
Given the momentum we have gained from Opening Doors and the USICH Framework to End Youth Homelessness, the RHY conference was ripe with opportunity to build more commitment and enthusiasm for the work ahead. The USICH Framework to End Youth Homelessness held a prominent spot on the conference agenda at a luncheon keynote session. Jennifer Ho provided an energetic keynote address about ending youth homelessness. She discussed two complementary strategies—getting better data on youth and building service capacity—included in the Youth Framework and explained why these strategies are important to our goal of ending youth homelessness.
11/05/2012 - Words never hurt? Toward a More Productive Public Discourse on Homeless Children and Youth
The schoolyard chant “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” rings hollow when I hear trusted allies arguing about the “right” definition of homelessness.
To the general public this must seem silly…fighting over definitions of homelessness. Some allies have observed that all this in-fighting can actually diminish political will. It’s been blamed as the primary reason it took more than a decade to pass the HEARTH Act that re-authorized McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs. A seemingly innocuous (some might even say bureaucratic) response from one ally recently provoked a backlash from another ally. I am not pointing fingers at either as this discourse is sadly and repeatedly played out all across the country.
While I believe that I understand the good intentions behind all the various points of view, I also see the opening for us to come together and, perhaps,be more careful in our language so that we are creating more allies and inspiring greater political will to end homelessness – not having folks throw up their hands and walk away. I’m going to work through an example because it might point us toward the path forward.
The first two days of this week federal offices in Washington, DC were closed due to Hurricane Sandy. USICH sends our condolences to those who lost loved ones. Our thoughts are with those who are struggling to recover from this disaster and for those working tirelessly in recovery efforts. To donate for the recovery effort via The American Red Cross, you can do so directly from their homepage: http://www.redcross.org/
Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv wrote this piece in the Huffington Post today about the power of social media that was used to help homeless services as they struggled to keep individuals safe in shelters during Hurricane Sandy - a powerful timeline of how people from across the country assisted in those in shelter or supportive housing during this disaster.
New Study about students experiencing homelessness
The University of Minnesota released a new study about the challenges and resiliency of students experiencing homelessness in the journal Child Development. This study examined academic achievement data for over 26,000 students in the Minneapolis Public Schools from third through eighth grades, comparing students identified as homeless or highly mobile with other students in the federal free meal program, reduced price meals, or neither. Achievement gaps appeared stable or widened between homeless or highly mobile students and lower risk groups. Math and reading achievement were lower, and growth in math was slower in years of homeless or highly mobile identification, suggesting acute consequences of housing instability. However, there is surprising resiliency: around 45% of homeless or highly mobile students scored within or above the average range in both math and reading despite their living situation. Results underscore the need for research on risk and resilience processes among homeless or highly mobile students to address achievement disparities.
Unaccompanied Youth and the 2013 Point in Time Count
Communities are now beginning to think about their January 2013 Point in Time Count, especially as it relates to unaccompanied youth. For the first time as part of the new Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act guidelines, unaccompanied youth will be counted in the Point-in- Time count in every community across the country. To kick off this process, The National Alliance to End Homelessness will host a webinar on including Youth in the “Point-In-Time” (P.I.T.) Count on Thursday, October 4 from 1:30-3:00PM (EST).
Also discussing both the full Point in Time count as well as the upcoming Housing Inventory Count, HUD is putting on a webinar on Tuesday, October 2 from 3:30-4:30 EDT. This will cover all the new requirements for communities conducting these counts, which includes information on ensuring more youth are counted in January 2013.
On July 12, the White House, along with the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, honored 13 leaders who have made a significant difference in the way their communities address homelessness among children and youth at Champions of Change in the Fight Against Youth Homelessness event.
The Champions of Change event provided an opportunity for community leaders, agency representatives and various White House officials to share and discuss effective ways to make change to improve the lives of our most vulnerable children and youth.
07/13/2012 - Listening to the NAEHCY/LeTendre Scholars: The Needs of Youth Experiencing Homelessness
On June 18, one day before participating in a Congressional briefing on youth homelessness, the 2010 recipients of the NAEHCY/LeTendre Scholarship, all currently and formerly homeless youth, came to the USICH office in Washington, D.C. to share their experiences and offer their first-hand accounts of the obstacles faced with exiting youth homelessness.
Established in 1998, the NAEHCY/LeTendre Scholarship funds are available to students who are homeless or who have been homeless during their school attendance and who have demonstrated higher than average achievement. To date, 222 youth representing 38 states have been selected as NAEHCY/LeTendre Scholars. USICH had the great opportunity to visit with thirteen of them.
On this second anniversary of the release of Opening Doors, it is important to look back and ahead. When we were developing the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, we knew that for the first time we were setting a goal to end youth homelessness and set our sights on 2020. The Cabinet Secretaries who lead the Council knew that this was a vulnerable population that we needed to help, and in the Plan we outlined what generally would be needed:
- Individual goal-based service planning
- On-going support services connected to mainstream resources
- Independent living skills training
- Connections to supportive and trustworthy adults and support networks
- Employment and education
The June 12, 2012 USICH Council meeting was a historic one – not only did it mark the second anniversary of Opening Doors, it also marked the unveiling of a framework for ending youth homelessness by 2020 and was the first time that a Council meeting was broadcast live.
Presented to the Council by the Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families at HHS, Bryan Samuels, this framework is the first time that the Council has endorsed a strategic set of priorities established to help us to reach the goal by 2020.Three thought leaders on the issue were in attendance as expert panelists: CEO of Lighthouse Youth Services Bob Mecum, President and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness Nan Roman, and State Coordinator for the McKinney-Vento Education of Homeless Children and Youth program at the Colorado Department of Education Dana Scott. All agreed that urgency on these strategic actions is vital to success.