29th June
written by Sam Batko

In 2010, the most recent annual data we have from HUD, there were nearly 170,000 homeless households with children in the nation.  We know that a large number of those households are headed by young parents.  In fact, the Alliance estimates that over 25 percent of homeless families are headed by a young adult under the age of 25—that’s approximately 50,000 to 60,000 families a year.

Because these families are accessing the homeless services through the adult family system, their needs as developing young adults may not necessarily be noticed or attended to and there may be some solutions to their homelessness that are being overlooked.

We know that the majority of homeless youth return home to family and that family intervention is a strategy that can effectively end homelessness not just for youth under the age of 18, but also for youth over the age of 18.  When serving a family headed by a young adult, providers should be attentive to whether or not there is a parent or extended family member that is willing to take in the young parent and their child(ren).  This may provide a more stable and supportive living arrangement for a young parent.

For young parents that cannot be reunified with family or a caring adult, rapid re-housing, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing have all proven effective in ending a young parents’ homelessness when properly targeted.  The Alliance has created a new page on its website dedicated to young parents.  The page provides more detail on what families headed by young parents look like, the interventions that may be appropriate for them, and a number of resources that provide more details on those interventions.

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26th June
written by naehblog

Today’s post was written by Eduardo SanFilippo, Youth Policy Fellow for the Alliance. 

What if a community made up less than half a percent of the American population but accounted for up to five percent of the homeless youth population? This is the reality facing transgender youth.

Recognizing this trend, many providers around the country have taken the important step of updating their non-discrimination policies to reflect the presence of transgender youth within their target populations. This policy adjustment, which aligns with our own recommendations here at the Alliance, must be matched by a shift in practice due to these youth’s unique challenges and needs. For example, if a youth self-identifies as transgender, should he or she be housed by anatomical gender or gender identity? Which bathrooms are most appropriately used? Should this analysis change based on whether the youth has already started the formal transition process through hormone therapy or other means?

First and foremost, providers must ensure a safe environment where youth feel secure in divulging their gender identity, and this means more than a non-discrimination policy. An atmosphere of inclusiveness must be fostered; staff and volunteers should receive training about issues pertaining to gender identity and expression, and the values of inclusiveness should be conveyed and enforced throughout the organization.

Under this framework, practices can be implemented that respect the gender identity of transgender youth while ensuring their safety. Shelter and housing options should be based on the youth’s gender identity and an individualized assessment. Transgender youth should not be isolated from other youth, even with seemingly good intentions; this can enhance feelings of depression and lead to further stigmatization. Working with individual transgender youth to arrange safe accommodation is the most appropriate means of minimizing discomfort and potential harm.

Even issues pertaining to bathroom and shower usage are not insurmountable. The Child Welfare League of America, Inc.’s ‘Best Practice Guide’ recommends a number of practices:

  • Installing privacy doors or other barriers on bathroom stalls and showers that also permit reasonable staff supervision.
  • Making single-use bathroom and shower facilities available to transgender youth.
  • Permitting transgender youth to use the bathroom and shower facilities before or after the other youth on the unit.
  • Facilities should make similar accommodations to ensure that transgender youth have sufficient privacy when dressing and undressing.


25th June
written by naehblog

Today’s guest blog is from Maddison Bruer, who we will be hearing from periodically on our blog this summer as she updates us on her work with Bridges of Norman.

Howdy folks! Well, we’re inching further and further into summer, and we sure can feel the heat here in Oklahoma. Our summers can be filled with long days of 100-degree weather and outrageous storms.

Anyway, let’s get to what’s going on at Bridges. When I left you all I had explained that I would be working with Bridges of Norman, a nonprofit geared toward supporting homeless youth in the local community. I, myself, am a graduate of the program having been there for about three years.  I completed my first year at The George Washington University but feel as though I’ve been gone ten years! Bridges is constantly changing, adding new methods of reaching out to homeless youth and working to support their current students.

Some New Things @ Bridges: The most notable change in the Bridges’ scene is their new method of helping kids get around town. For as along I can remember being there (and after experiencing the problem myself), Bridges has encountered trouble with solutions to getting students to school, work, appointments, etc. At first staff were simply giving the students rides themselves, but then that cut a lot into staff time. Then, Bridges implemented a ‘volunteer carpool’, which consisted of volunteers across our community giving up time to drive students to where they needed to go. Said volunteers would have their names put on a list, and when a student needed to go somewhere, that student would give a staff member an advanced warning and that staff member would go to the volunteer carpool list and call somebody up to see if he or she was available. Nowadays, Bridges has a whole new method of breaking through the transportation obstacle, and it’s called the motorbike. After months of research, Bridges has begun a partnership with a local motorbike dealer who sells the two-wheeled rascals to Bridges who then loans them to students. That student then signs a contract with Bridges that includes that student having to take a safety driving course before riding (among many other things).  It’s a sort of complex system, based a lot on trust, but so far, so good.

My time at Bridges has been great, and it’s quite interesting being able to see the whole system from this side. Sometimes I look at these young adults going it alone as just high school students and wonder, ‘How did I do it? How are these students doing it?’ Then I remember that our circumstances made us stronger than we will ever imagine. Bridges, and other programs like it, makes the difference between living in poverty and going to college, but if a person doesn’t want to be better, they will never get better.

Until next time,


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22nd June
written by Andre Wade

There are so many unaccompanied runaway and homeless minors that don’t get served by runaway and homeless youth (RHY) providers that child welfare should make these minors a priority population that it serves. Nationally, RHY programs serve about 50,000 minors and older youth each year. Here at the Alliance we estimate that there are still about 400,000 minors still in need of shelter and services.

So what can child welfare do to change how it responds to unaccompanied runaway and homeless minors?

  • When State’s develop their Child and Family Service Plans they can identify unaccompanied runway and homeless minors as a sub-population they will serve. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that these minor youth have to become wards of the state and possibly placed into foster care.

And how can these minors be served?

  1.  The Promoting Safe and Stable Families program dollars can be used to provide family intervention services such as counseling, reunification services, to address the core issues that led to the minor youth exiting the home and to reunify the minor with his/her family if it is safe to do so.
  2. Through a Differential (or Alternative) Response, these minors and their families can receive services to strengthen the family and address core crises, instead of a child becoming a word of the state and a parent having an open child protective services case.

The goal is to increase resources for runaway and homeless minors to get them off of the street and to safety, which many times means back home to their families.

In Alameda County (California) a demonstration project is underway that brings together child welfare, runaway and homeless youth providers, and Legal Aid services to help to identify minors who may benefit from child welfare services that are evolving and improving through California’s implementation of AB 12.  This promising approach may lead to other jurisdictions to re-think how their child welfare system responds to unaccompanied minors.

Image courtesy of Dara Gocheski.

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19th June
written by naehblog

Today’s post was written by Christian Brandt, Federal Policy Intern for the Alliance.

Last Wednesday I had the privilege of sitting in on a meeting for the Research Council, a group comprised of prominent researchers in the areas of homelessness and housing from around the country. The Council meets to gather and share their new information and recent research activities, propose new research to fill existing gaps, and guide the agenda of the Homelessness Research Institute, the research division of the Alliance.  At the end of most meetings some kind of research agenda is prepared from the meeting’s conversation.  This time the Council was visited by several researchers from HUD who were able to listen and respond to the suggestions that the researchers made.  Besides being among greats within the homelessness and housing sphere, it was really cool to be able to see how the Alliance sets its research agenda and interacts with agencies like HUD.

The meeting covered a vast swath of topics, from youth homelessness, to child welfare and housing instability, to homelessness among veterans and single men. The conversation was a whirlwind of acronyms, abbreviations, and statistics, most of which went way over my head, but all of which are extremely important to know and definitely expanded my understanding of all things related to homelessness. Many of the ideas that the Council discussed have been questions that researchers have been trying to answer for years but have not been able to definitively address for one reason or another, so it was interesting to hear it all in one place!

Though the conversation was rife with interesting facts and research, perhaps the most interesting was about the “Cohort Effect” among the aging homeless population.  Within the shelter system, the population is heavily skewed toward single adults, particularly older men, with the median age hovering around 50. The Cohort Effect suggests that during the 1980s, when widespread homelessness appeared in the US in its current form, several factors—such as an economic recession and the emergence of crack cocaine—led to persistent and chronic homelessness among the single adults.  Isolation from the job market during the recession followed by the drug epidemic in the mid-80s conspired to keep this cohort out of the housing market and legal economy.  This is especially interesting because of the implications this effect has for providing health care to an aging homeless population.

The two most dominant ideas, both of which ended up being placed on the research agenda and suggested to the visiting HUD researchers involved using the pre-existing social system to analyze the efficacy of several programs.  The first suggested using the structure of the emergency shelter system to see if the levels of alcohol consumption or intoxication allowed in a shelter (e.g. whether that shelter is dry, damp, or wet) affects how utilized that shelter is.

The second idea suggested using the Family Unification Program (FUP) to look at how the program’s voucher could be better utilized for children who receive FUP support.  In addition to those two ideas, suggestions about researching the success rates of rapid re-housing, particularly about recidivism rates of individuals leaving rapid re-housing programs, made up the bulk of the research agenda suggestions.

At the end of the day my head was spinning and I left the meeting with the same feeling that exchange students have after their first day speaking their new language: I could understand everything that was being said to me, but responding was another issue altogether.  Even though the meeting was like diving headfirst into a pool without really knowing how to swim, I learned more about the American social service system in one day than I have in any research setting prior and I felt like I had accomplished something.  I’m really excited to keep having this feeling throughout my internship (especially the part about feeling accomplished; there’s nothing like a good ego boost every once in a while!).

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18th June
written by Andre Wade

There are many benefits for implementing family intervention for runaway and homeless youth such as:

  • Ending a homelessness episode;
  • Having a housing destination for a youth;
  • Improving relationships and strengthening a family;
  • Increasing the potential of  a youth having positive outcomes; and
  • Mitigating future runaway or throwaway episodes.

As part of Family Reunification Month the Alliance hosted a webinar on family intervention that discusses the importance of family intervention, practices used to reunify and connect homeless youth with their parents, as well as the Support to Reunite, Involve, and Value Each Other (STRIVE) model. The webinar features myself, Tania Pryce of Youth Services of Tulsa, and Dr. Norweeta Milburn of UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

Family intervention is a strategic intervention to link unaccompanied runaway and homeless youth, regardless of age, to their family. Family intervention is an umbrella term that can include discrete strategies such as family reunification, family connecting and family finding. Aftercare services can be a form of family intervention that is provided to a youth and their family, after a youth has exited a program. The purpose is to provide a youth and their family with additional supports and resources such as referrals to community providers, and financial assistance to facilitate a youth’s self-sufficiency and/or to maintain the youth in the home. The goal of family intervention can be to return a youth to his or her family, or to connect him or her to a caring adult, or to provide a family with additional resources after a youth has exited a program to keep the family intact.

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12th June
written by naehblog

The following are remarks from the Alliance’s President and CEO, Nan Roman, regarding the U.S. Department of of Health and Human Services’  new framework to advance the goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020, as announced at a live webcast of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness meeting.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness applauds the commitment of Chairman Sebelius and the members of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) to end youth homelessness by 2020.  For far too long the plight of unaccompanied children and young adults has gone unaddressed.  Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness brought much needed attention to this particularly vulnerable population.  The USICH Proposed Framework for Ending Youth Homelessness is an important next step in laying out what the Federal government will do to achieve this goal.

The Alliance concurs with the major focus areas in the Framework:  sizing the population; identifying the key segments of the population; identifying solutions for each segment; and going to scale with the solutions for each segment.  We also support the outcomes of housing, connection, wellbeing, and education/employment.

Earlier this year the Alliance made a preliminary effort, using existing data, to estimate the size and segments of the population and examined this information for implications to policy and practice. Based on this framework as well as the USICH Framework presented today, the Alliance offers the following thoughts for the future.

Improving Data. The Alliance concurs that better data is essential to size and address the problem to scale.  Further, the experiences of both HUD and VA clearly indicate that setting numerical goals for ending homelessness, and driving performance toward these goals, works.  Without solid data there is no baseline and progress cannot be measured.  For all of these reasons, the need for better data is critical.   The Alliance recommends:

  • Merging RHYMIS and HMIS in 2012 and beginning to create the tools by which the increasing volume of youth data can be analyzed.
  • Requiring youth providers and local Continuums of Care to include youth in the HUD mandated point in time counts in 2013.  Any inclusion of youth will be an improvement.
  • Prioritizing research and evaluation of different intervention models for different subpopulations of youth to better inform resource allocation and targeting.

Serving High Need Youth. Approximately 40,000 youth have higher levels of physical and mental health problems and rates of substance use, as well as longer or more frequent episodes of homelessness.  These youth may spend long periods on the streets because they cannot or do not access programs that lack either the ability or the inclination to address their need for treatment.  While on the street, they face a host of challenges, including violence, drugs, and the risk of sexual exploitation.  HHS and HUD should incentivize youth-targeted programs to serve the most vulnerable youth by providing bonus points in the competitive granting process to programs that target “street youth” with a diagnosed/diagnosable mental health, substance abuse, physical and/or developmental disorder; and that clearly define the outcomes they will achieve.  Evaluation of these efforts, and practice collaboratives to share best practices are also recommended in order to advance successful approaches.

Mainstream Resources. Reunification with family remains the most practical and promising solution for a vast majority of homeless youth, particularly those under 18.   Additionally, the reason that families break apart is often poverty and eviction rather than conflict.  The homelessness system is not sized to address these needs.  As Opening Doors points out, mainstream programs such as child welfare, TANF, juvenile justice, and housing must assume much of this responsibility.  The education system has a critical role both in identifying risk and improving outcomes. Ending youth homelessness will require a clear plan for how mainstream programs will assume responsibility for these vulnerable youth.  HHS should encourage state child welfare agencies to include these minors as a targeted population in state plans, with goals for reducing homelessness.  HHS could also provide guidance as to how child welfare agencies can work collaboratively with RHYA programs to better serve homeless youth.  The Administration could set goals for other mainstream programs including affordable housing, TANF, juvenile and criminal justice, and mental health and substance abuse treatment to strengthen families and both prevent youth from becoming homeless and facilitate youth returning to their families.


Once again, thank you to Chairman Sebelius and the members of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, as well as the HHS Administration on Children, Youth and Families, for the commitment to end youth homelessness.   The Alliance looks forward to being a partner with the Administration on these efforts.


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12th June
written by Sam Batko

Today, June 12, at 1:30 p.m. ET, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USHICH) meeting, chaired by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, will be streamed live online.  Today’s meeting will feature a presentation by the U.S. Department of of Health and Human Services (HHS that will announce a new framework to advance the goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020.

The Alliance’s own Nan Roman will be on a panel of experts who will participate in a discussion immediately following the presentation of the new framework.  The other experts on the panel will be Dana Scott, State Coordinator for Homeless Education for the Colorado Department of Education and Vice President of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth; and Bob Mecum, Executive Director of Lighthouse Youth Services.

Check back here at the Alliance’s blog this afternoon to read more about the presentation and the Alliance’s response.

8th June
written by Andre Wade

Best Practices and Policies for LGBTQ Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Many recommended best policies and practices have been developed for housing and serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth. How many check marks would your organization earn for implementing the following policies and practices to increase LGBTQ youth’s potential for increased success?

  • Create a welcoming environment where non-discrimination and non-harassment policies are implemented and communicated to all youth, families, and community partners;
  •  Place youth in safe and appropriate shelter and housing programs based upon both their gender identity and an individualized assessment;
  •  Make cultural competency training available and mandatory for all employees to ensure that a welcoming and inclusive environment is created;
  •  Deliver family intervention services that increase family acceptance of their child’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity to decrease youth’s risky behavior;
  • Partner with LGBT and/or transgender specific organizations in your community to better provide services and referrals to youth and their families, and participate in coalitions to make other programs aware of services for LGBT youth;
  • Improve targeting and outreach for LGBT youth by tailoring street outreach efforts to locales where transgender youth congregate;
  • Collect and manage confidential information during the intake process to inform programmatic and policy responses, and to ensure that staff do not violate a youth’s privacy;
  • Provide or make available supportive healthcare services that meet the unique health needs of  transgender youth to improve their access to proper health care.

Many policies and practices that are effective for preventing and ending youth homelessness, such as targeting and outreach, family intervention services, housing, and supportive services, are the same for LGBTQ youth. Specific adjustments related to a youth’s sexual orientation and gender identity, however, are necessary to address the challenges these youth face and to ensure that homeless LGBTQ youth have a real, meaningful opportunity to leave homelessness behind.

31st May
written by Amanda Benton

As regular readers of this blog know, we write fairly often about federal homelessness appropriations – what’s happening, how you can get involved, and what various proposals would mean for your daily work on the ground to prevent and end homelessness. But we haven’t written about appropriations (the federal funding process) in several weeks, so you may be wondering: what’s the latest news?

The House and Senate are both busy working on their fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding bills. We have been tracking three particular bills very closely, so read on for more information on each of those funding measures!

HUD. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its FY 2013 bill to fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The full Senate has yet to vote on the legislation, though it may do so in the coming months. The Senate’s version included $2.146 billion for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs – not as much as the $2.231 billion requested by the President, but still a $245 million increase over FY 2012!

The House has not yet released its FY 2013 HUD funding bill, though it is expected to do so shortly. (Sign up for our McKinney-Vento Campaign list or our Advocacy Updates for the latest details!)

VA. The Appropriations Committees in both the House and Senate have approved their FY 2013 funding bills for programs within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – including targeted homeless veteran programs. Both bills would provide the Administration’s requested 33 percent increase to $1.35 billion for VA’s homeless veteran programs, including $300 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. The full House may vote on this legislation this week.

HHS. Each year, one of the most difficult bills to pass is the one that funds programs like the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA ) programs within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – largely because it is such a big bill and includes such a huge range of programs. As a result, it’s often one of the latest to be released. So far, neither the House nor the Senate has released its proposal for the FY 2013 HHS funding bills, and no timeline has been announced for doing so. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more!

As you can see, Congress is definitely making progress with these bills, though nothing has been finalized yet. As of now, Congress is not expected to finalize any of its FY 2013 funding bills prior to the start of the fiscal year on October 1. Instead, Congress will likely pass one or more stopgap funding measures (called continuing resolutions) until after the election before finalizing their funding decisions.

So, there is still plenty of time to get involved! Though in most cases, the Appropriations Committees have released their decisions, when the legislation goes to the House or Senate floor, every vote counts! Your Members of Congress need to hear from YOU on the importance of these programs and how they make a difference in the lives of people at risk of or experiencing homelessness. If you would be interested in getting involved in any of our campaigns to provide funding for homelessness programs, please let us know!

Image courtesy of 401K.