1.1 A Blueprint for Ending Youth Homelessness How do we end youth homelessness?


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1.1 A Blueprint for Ending Youth Homelessness
How do we end youth homelessness?

Speaker: Samantha Batko

This workshop will summarize research and examine an emerging typology that can be used to inform and appropriately scale interventions to end youth homelessness. Presenters will describe strategies that are working to help young people reconnect with family and other caring adults when appropriate, and prepare to transition successfully to independent living with housing and supportive services.

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  • Who I am, what our team focuses on, etc.
  • Building on what my fellow presenters have already discussed, I will be going over what the Alliance feels are the best estimates of the number of youth that fit into each of the subcategories that Paul presented on earlier as well as the number of youth we believe are currently being served in the adult homelessness assistance system. Then, I’ll discuss what the research and data show and the implications of that knowledge should be on strategies for ending youth homelessness. Finally, I will go over specific housing and service interventions for each subpopulation of youth and what communities can do to make progress toward ending youth homelessness.
  • The most commonly quoted number of homeless youth under the age of 18, just under 1.7 million, comes from the National incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, and Thrownaway Children, more commonly known as the NISMART. As Nan mentioned in her remarks this morning, 1.3 million of these youth go home within a week, with at least over 96% of them with no intervention from us, therefore, we have placed this population in a category of brief runaways and outside of Paul’s typology assuming, that even if we are serving a segment of this population, it is existing predominantly outside of Paul’s typology. Using the proportions that Paul found in his study, this chart shows a breakdown of the number of youth in each of the subpopulations Paul discussed earlier. What we have chosen to call “temporarily disconnected” represents Paul’s “low-risk’ population. As the name of the subpopulation implies, these youth maintain more stable relationships with their families and school and are the most likely to return home quickly. Using Paul’s proportions, we would estimate that there are approximately 228,000 of these youth over the course of the year. The “unstably connected” group, which is representative of Paul Toro’s “transient” population, would be approximately 84,000 under 18 year olds over the course of a year. This population has less stable connections with school and family than the temporarily disconnected group, but also does not have prominent mental health or substance abuse problems. Finally, the “chronically disconnected” population, which would represent 68,000 youth per year, are the equivalent of Paul’s “high risk” population, and are more likely to have dropped out of school, to have little or no connection with their families, and to struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues. When we looked at these numbers with respect to some of the other data elements the NISMART study provides us, we felt there were things that didn’t line up right. For example, the number of temporarily disconnected youth over the course of the year is smaller than the number of youth that returned home in less than a month and the number of youth who are gone for over 1 month is significantly smaller than the number of youth comprised in the unstably connected and chronically disconnected population. We thought it seemed unlikely that youth that return home within one month of leaving, a large proportion of whom are doing so without our assistance would fall into the unstably connected or chronically disconnected population. Therefore, we made some additional adjustments.
  • On this chart, you will see that the proportions among the subpopulations are slightly modified. We have done this to reflect the trends the NISMART data shows. We placed all of the youth who return home between one week and one month from the date they ran away in the temporarily disconnected group, then applied Paul’s proportions to the remaining population. We feel this reflects the trend that the vast majority of youth tend to return home quickly and what research says about how youth do maintain relationships with family, even while away from home. This leaves just over 50,000 youth with more intensive needs. There are approximately 29,000 youth in the unstably connected subpopulation and 24,000 youth in the chronically disconnected subpopulation. It is important to note here and with the chart on the following slide that we are making what we consider to be our best estimates. We know that we need better data, we will continue to work on obtaining better data, and we will amend these numbers as we get better information and data. This is our first attempt at defining clear estimates with what we feel is the best data sets available to us now.
  • Unfortunately, the data we have for the 18 to 24 year old youth is perhaps even less accurate and provides little context for how youth move through homelessness in the adult system. We are limited to HMIS data collected from homeless programs over the course of a year. We know the limitations of this data: 1) that we do not have actual breakdowns of data to the 18 to 24 age group, 2) we know that this number is probably an undercount as it does not include youth living on the street and those not accessing the adult shelter system, and, 3) that homeless youth and at-risk youth have a propensity to start having children younger and therefore enter the family system as opposed to the adult single system. This chart only reflects our estimates on the number of youth utilizing the single adult system, not those youth in the family system. Given these qualifications, we have made what we think are the best estimates of the number of youth ages 18 to 24 within the single adult homeless assistance system broken down into the commonly accepted homeless individual typology put forth by Dennis Culhane. An important point is that, while we think these are estimates of the number of 18-24 year olds being served in the adult system, we have significant concern for the youth who are NOT accessing the adult system, but instead living on the streets or in unsafe housing arrangements. It is not possible to make an estimate as to the size of this population and more effort needs to be put into figuring this out—particularly in enumerating the street population. Another important subpopulation to note is the LGBTQ population. While we do not have accurate estimates of the overall number of LGBTQ homeless youth or what proportion of the overall population they make up, in some cities, as much as 40% of the population of homeless youth is estimated to be LGBTQ. LGBTQ youth may be at particular risk of being runaways or thrownaway and may be over-represented across the ages and subpopulations because of their family’s lack of acceptance.
  • Luckily, some of the data and research we do have not only gives us information on the number of runaways and homeless youth, it also provides context by showing us how long youth runaway, where they go after leaving programs, and what their experience while homeless is like. The first and most prominent thing we see is that most youth go home. To borrow a phrase coined by one of my other presenters while we were preparing for this presentation, “youth are voting with their feet”. Youth overwhelmingly choose to go home, most quickly. According to the NISMART over 99% of youth eventually go home. And, out of the 1.68 million that runaway or are thrownaway, over 1.5 million were home within one month with 1/5 of those home in less than 24 hours. And, at least 96% of them do so without any intervention from the runaway and homeless youth assistance system. Family reunification is already a stated goal of the basic center program funded through RHYA and the program is extremely effective at it. Based on the data collected in these programs, we know that nearly all youth return home very quickly from the basic center program. Interestingly, even among those youth in longer term programs, the most common destination when exiting is also to return to family. We also know that some youth cannot go safely home and need housing and support services from which to prepare themselves to become well developed adults. For youth, transitional programs provide a launching point from which to gain education, employment, and the skills they need to live independently as an adult. Additionally, we know that there is a subset of youth who live on the streets for long periods of time and therefore face a wide variety of dangers, including sexual exploitation, violence, and drug use. One of our primary goals needs to be to get youth off of the streets and keep them off the streets. Going along with that point, we also know that the number of involuntary exits from youth programs is too high. In order to serve youth on the streets and the youth most in need of intensive services, we need to develop programs with lower barriers to entry and that hold onto youth as opposed to kicking them out for breaking rules.
  • Based on the available research and what we know already about where youth are choosing to go, the solution for most homeless youth of all ages and particularly those under the age of 18 is and should be reunification with their families, when it is safe to do so. When we talk about “family” reunification, we use the term family loosely whenever possible, meaning that the goal is to have the youth reunified with their original family, their extended family, or another caring adult that plays an appropriate and positive role in the youth’s life when possible. Basic center programs funded by the Families and Youth Services Bureau have a strong focus on reunification. This focus needs to be expanded to transitional living programs and other programs that youth may interact with. Also, there may be lessons to be learned from the successes that child welfare agencies have had in reunifying children with their families. Additionally, family finding and connection activities are important for all youth regardless of whether they will be able to actually be housed with them. Family interventions have proven to improve a number of outcomes for youth aside from housing including mental health. Work to build the natural supports for youth should be a priority for all programs working with youth independent of a youth’s final housing destination.
  • As you can see, this chart highlights targeted interventions for each subpopulation that we discussed earlier. You will see a focus on family intervention throughout every subpopulation because, for all three subpopulations, reunification is seen as the best possible outcome for the majority of youth given that the environment they would be returning to is safe. For all of the subpopulations, it is also important that a community has low barrier shelter options and emergency housing options for youth to keep youth off the street and out of the dangers inherent in living on the streets while working toward reunification with family or waiting for placement into an appropriate housing option. It is expected that both the temporarily disconnected youth and the unstably connected youth can and should be reunified with their family. For the unstably connected youth, more intensive family intervention models and efforts may be needed. For those youth who are not able to be reunified with their families, transitional living programs play a vital role. These programs provide youth with a launching point to be independent adults. It is important that these programs have low barriers for entry to keep youth with high needs off of the street and ensure that youth with high needs are being provided with the richer interventions they need. These time-limited programs provide youth with housing in a variety of models with a variety services. These services should be intended to help youth live independently when leaving the program and include education, employment, life skills, and connections to substance abuse and mental health treatment. In addition to these services, these programs should continue to do family intervention, helping those youth for whom it is or becomes appropriate, reunify with their families and, for those who cannot reunify, continue to build up family connections and a support system for the youth to have when leaving the program.
  • Like youth under the age of 18, reunification with family as a way to end homelessness for a youth should be considered a positive outcome. Youth over the age of 18 also have the advantage of being able to establish their own households and have access to resources funneled through the Continuum of Care in their community meaning they can access rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and, when appropriate, permanent supportive housing. The majority of youth like like the majorities of youth under the age of 18 and individuals, should be able to have their homelessness ended through reunification with family or rapid re-housing that places them in a unit of their own. Rapid re-housing programs can help a youth find their own apartment, sign their own lease, provide them with rent assistance for a period of time (up to 2 years under ESG), and link them with community and mainstream services to help them stabilize in housing. A number of communities started using a rapid re-housing model for youth with success with the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing program. Some youth may require more a more supportive or long-term housing program. Transitional living programs and transitional housing programs can provide youth who need it with more structure and support. And, for some youth, those that have been homeless for long periods of time and have a disability, permanent supportive housing is a housing option available to provide youth with the long-term financial and services support they will need to maintain housing. As with youth under the age of 18, it is important that these programs be accessible and have minimal barriers to entry and that programs work to prevent youth from exiting these programs back to the street. Programs serving youth ages 18 to 24 who are unable to move back with their families, like those serving youth under the age of 18, should spend time on helping youth develop and maintain relationships with a support network of family and other caring adults.
  • Similar to unaccompanied youth over the age of 18 who are not parenting, parenting youth that are homeless are able to access the larger, more resourced continuum of care programs that provide for rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing. We estimate that young families, meaning those with a head of household under the age of 25, make up approximately ¼ of the overall number of homeless families accessing the homeless assistance system over the course of a year. As young families make up a significant portion of the families currently being served and have traditionally been served within that system, it stands that the interventions that are appropriate for homeless families in general are generally appropriate for families headed by young parents as well, with the caveat that, like with other youth who are not parenting, family reunification should be considered a successful outcome, if attainable, for the majority of young parents. For those young parents that cannot be reunified with an appropriate family member or other supportive adult in their life, the large majority of young parents, like the large majority of homeless families in general, can most likely have their homelessness ended through rapid re-housing and relatively small amounts of assistance. For some young parents, longer term financial assistance and services may be necessary. No matter the duration of a program, those programs serving young parents should be aware of the needs of the youth as both a parent and as an adolescent.
  • A greater emphasis on family reunification.   As we have been discussing already today and throughout this presentation, most youth return home to family and we should encourage and facilitate that process. Communities will need to continue to prioritize family intervention as they already do in their basic center program, but this focus needs to be expanded to transitional living and transitional housing programs as well as any other types of programs in which youth live. Additionally, these services cannot end when the youth returns home. Often, it is necessary to provide ongoing support to strengthen the family and the youth’s well-being in the household. We all need to continue to work to increase funding for programs that support families and youth. Expand reach and effectiveness of transitional living programs.   As there remains youth with serious needs on the street, we know that some of the most vulnerable youth are not accessing the supports they require. Communities should place a greater emphasis on minimizing the barriers to enter programs and work to reduce the number of involuntary exits from programs. We have heard statements that some youth are not “ready” for transitional housing yet. As with families and individuals, we have to leave the idea of youth being “ready’ for housing behind us. We need to move youth off of the streets and into housing as quickly as possible and then work to keep them in housing and engaged. Communities also need to ensure that their programs are accepting and inviting to LGBTQ youth. work collaboratively with mainstream systems to attempt to make sure that youth exiting these systems are prepared to live independently or are reunited with family. All programs that are serving youth should make sure to link youth to or provide services at are appropriate to a youth’s developmental stage. It is important that service development and planning be informed by youth that are participating in the services. Youth will be more engaged in services that are representative of their stated needs and wants. And, for youth who are pregnant and parenting, it is important that programs support these youth both in their parenting role and as a still developing adolescent. Improving crisis response/prevention.   There are too few basic center or other shelter programs to meet the existing need and leaving youth unsheltered is unacceptable.  The Alliance is committed to work to secure more resources for crisis housing for youth that is focused on reunifying youth with their families. Communities also need to focus on alternative models to house youth in crisis to prevent youth from remaining unsheltered. This can range from having a more flexible shelter response to a host home option to provide for a safe and supervised home within the community. Communities should also invest effort in preventing youth from becoming homeless in the first place by working collaboratively with mainstream systems, including child welfare and juvenile justice, to attempt to make sure that youth exiting these systems are prepared to live independently or are reunited with family. Additionally, the limited resources that ARE available to populations coming out of these systems should be targeted to and prioritized for those youth who have become precariously housed or homeless already. For example, the FUP vouchers that are available to youth who have aged out of foster care should be used to prevent long stays in homelessness for youth that age out and subsequently experience severe housing instability or homelessness. Improving data.   We believe better data is critical.  As I said earlier, the estimates we have made in this presentation are our best current estimates and that as we get better data these estimates would be refined. Nationally, we need to make further progress toward collecting better data that can be used to inform the size and type of interventions that local communities offer as well as to measure how well those programs are performing in serving runaway and homeless youth.  Communities should encourage better coordination of local homeless youth data with other local HUD continuum of care efforts, including local enumeration efforts (Point-In-Time counts) and participating in HMIS data that could help local programs identify youth who exit their programs only to enter programs for homeless adults. And, locally communities could make efforts to decrease duplications in their street outreach data to better track their street population at any given time. The Alliance will continue to push for both better data on the number of homeless youth and on the effectiveness of programs serving youth. It is the key to knowing if we are making progress in ending youth homelessness.
  • 1.1 A Blueprint for Ending Youth Homelessness How do we end youth homelessness?

    1. 1. A Blueprint for Ending Youth Homelessness Samantha Batko, Program and Policy Analyst, National Alliance to End Homelessness
    2. 2. Blueprint to End Youth Homelessness <ul><li>Estimates of Homeless Youth </li></ul><ul><li>Context Provided by Research and Data </li></ul><ul><li>Targeted Solutions </li></ul><ul><li>Improving Our Response to Homeless Youth </li></ul>
    3. 3. The Number of Homeless Youth Under 18 Category Percentage Number Brief Runaways n/a 1.3 million Low Risk 60% 228,000 Transient 22% 84,000 High Risk 18% 68,000
    4. 4. The Number of Homeless Youth Under 18
    5. 5. The Number of Homeless Youth Age 18-24 *This chart reflects the number of 18-24 year olds in the adult single system and does not reflect the number of parenting youth in the family system. Category Percentage Number Short-Term 81% 122,000 Episodic 9% 13,000 Chronic 10% 15,000
    6. 6. What the Research and Data Suggests <ul><li>Most youth go home. Most, quickly. </li></ul><ul><li>Some youth are unable to go home safely. </li></ul><ul><li>There is a subset of youth who are living on the streets for long periods of time. </li></ul><ul><li>The number of involuntary exits from youth programs is too high. </li></ul>
    7. 7. Primary Solution for Youth Under 18 <ul><li>REUNIFICATION </li></ul>
    8. 8. Interventions for Youth Under 18 Category Percentage Intervention Temporarily Disconnected 86% -Family Intervention -Crisis Housing Available Unstably Connected 8% -Intensive Family Intervention -Crisis Housing Available Chronically Disconnected 6% -Time-Limited Supportive Housing/TLP -Family Intervention
    9. 9. Interventions for Youth Age 18-24 Category Percentage Intervention Short Term 81% -Family Intervention -Rapid Re-housing Episodic 9% -Family Intervention -Rapid Re-housing -TLP/Transition in Place Chronic 10% -Time-limited Supportive Services/TLP -Family Intervention -PSH
    10. 10. Interventions for Parents Age 18-24 Category Percentage Intervention Temporary 81% -Family Intervention -Rapid Re-housing Long-Term Stayers 15% -Rapid Re-Housing -Transition-in-Place Episodic/ Chronic 4% -TLP/Transition in Place -Medium- to Long-Term Housing and Services
    11. 11. Improving the Response to Youth Homelessness <ul><li>Place greater emphasis on family intervention. </li></ul><ul><li>Expand the reach and effectiveness of transitional living/housing programs. </li></ul><ul><li>Improve crisis response and prevent youth from entering homelessness. </li></ul><ul><li>Improve data. </li></ul>
    12. 12. Contact <ul><li>Samantha Batko </li></ul><ul><li>Program and Policy Analyst </li></ul><ul><li>National Alliance to End Homelessness </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>202-942-8248 </li></ul>