On May 10, 2012, I had the pleasure of spending the entire day with Cyndi Lauper lobbying on behalf of LGBTQ youth that experience homelessness. Along with Gregory Lewis, Executive Director of Cyndi’s foundation, the True Colors Fund, the Center for American Progress and the Human Rights Campaign we spent the morning briefing Cyndi on how to lobby members of Congress. The three “asks” we covered were:
- Increase funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) by $12 million.
- Support the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness, which was introduced by Senator Kerry last year, a section of which would establish a demonstration project to increase family acceptance of their LGBTQ children and youth in order to decrease risky behavior of children and youth. The demonstration project would be based upon the work of the Family Acceptance Project.
- Add LGBT language to future RHYA reauthorizations: First, add a general statement of nondiscrimination for RHYA that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, prohibiting grant recipients from discriminating against LGBT youth. Second, require RHYA grant applicants to include LGBT youth in any planning documents that are currently needed to qualify for a grant.
We all made visits to the congressional offices of Sen. Franken (D-MN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Minority Leader Pelosi (D-CA), and Senator John Kerry (D-MA). We also met with people HUD, HHS, and USICH. I am pleased to report that everyone was very receptive to Cyndi’s personal experiences and observations with LGBTQ homeless youth and the three asks for the day.
It goes without saying that Cyndi’s meetings and presence on the Hill drew some press! In between meetings and going from office to office, Cyndi had multiple requests to be interviewed by outlets such as CNN, MSNBC and others. It was thrilling to see the behind the scenes action!
Finally, we ended the day at a briefing on LGBTQ youth homelessness, which was hosted by the House LGBT Equality Caucus. The panelists consisted of Cyndi Lauper, Andrew Barnett, Sexual Minority Youth Assistance; Deborah Shore, Sasha Bruce Youthwork; Jeff Krehely, Center for American Progress; and myself. It was moderated by Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign. We all spoke to the need to improve the response to LGBTQ youth homelessness by increasing funding, improving data, and ensuring that family intervention is inclusive of the needs of parents with LGBTQ children and youth.
Photo courtesy of Washington Blade magazine.
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.
Hello everybody! My name is Maddison Bruer and I’ve been given the opportunity this summer to share a little bit about myself and a project I am working on this summer with you on the Alliance’s blog.
First, a bit about myself: I am finishing up my first year at The George Washington University studying International Affairs and Psychology. Home for me is Norman, Oklahoma. When I was in first grade my class had “career day” where every first grader wrote a story about what he or she wanted to be when they were all grown up. I said police officer. Those dreams of serving in the public sector have followed me into my adulthood as I take steps to one day work for the CIA or State Department. If I fail at said aspirations, I’ve vowed that I will move to Miami and join the police academy. I love the heat anyway. Right now, I’m living part of my dream by interning for the Peace Corps and working with a committee to revamp the Volunteer application and delivery system. After months of living and breathing Peace Corps, I’m realizing the vast opportunities that could come from continuing that relationship as a Volunteer myself, after college of course.
Getting to where I am now, however, was not a path without trolls, slimy slugs, and mountains to overcome. After raising me as a single parent, my mother fell into a relationship that led her to become entangled in a situation full of illegal activities. Such a lifestyle landed her in jail and me without a home. I couch surfed for a few months before landing in an abandon trailer trying to support myself and make it to school. After my school counselor noticed a shift in my home life, she offered me information on a youth homeless shelter called Bridges of Norman where I found myself living for three years before coming to college in DC. Bridges offered me experiences and support I will never be able to repay. I’m a strong believer in the notion that it takes a village to raise a child. My entire community helped me raise myself by my bootstraps and fulfill my dream of higher education.
Recently I won the 2012 J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Public Service Award that awards $5,500 for tuition to a student who proposes a quality internship undertaking and demonstrates a passion for public service. In a way to give back to my community, I have decided to become an intern for Bridges conducting research on graduates of the program. Thus, hopefully I will be able to get an insight on students’ success in the long run after enduring such conditions. In addition, I hope that my presence will be a positive influence for those students currently in the program and enable to help the Bridges staff, my community, and other students with stories similar to my own.
Until next time,
In February, at the first ever National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness, the Alliance introduced a brand new framework for ending youth homelessness. Springboarding off the introduction of that framework, the Alliance is featuring a wide variety of content at the upcoming National Conference on Ending Homelessness to be held July 16-18 in Washington, DC, including, but not limited to:
- Systems-level outcome measures and approaches for communities working to end youth homelessness,
- Family intervention strategies to successfully prevent youth from becoming homeless and reunite youth who have become homeless with their families,
- Strategies for engaging and maintaining high need youth in housing programs,
- Improving outcomes of youth aging out of the child welfare system and those exiting the juvenile justice system to prevent homelessness,
- Scattered site housing models for youth,
- Improving employment outcomes for youth, and
- Creating welcoming and safe environments for LGBTQ youth to get these youth off of the street and keep them safe while in care..
These workshops are strategically placed throughout the conference to allow attendees to attend as many sessions on youth as possible. This will truly be a conference not to be missed for anyone working to end youth homelessness in their community. The early registration rate for the conference is only available online until 10am EST on Wednesday, May 30, 2012. Or, you may mail in your registration form postmarked by Wednesday, May 30, 2012.
Do you know the number of homeless youth in your county or city? Communities across the nation have been conducting targeted youth counts, which the Alliance has gathered and placed on its new Youth Count media map and webpage to answer that question. The map will show you which communities have conducted counts, their results and a brief synopsis of the methodology used. Also, you’ll find a link to the full report to read in its entirety. We hope that this map will encourage your community to conduct a targeted youth count that can be used to inform policy and the scaling of interventions.
We also want to provide resources to communities to help them to either improve their counts or to conduct initial counts of homeless youth. Therefore, you will find resources on our new webpage such as webinars, briefs and a toolkit about counting youth.
There’s a lot more that needs to be done to be able to solve the issue of youth homelessness. What can you do? What can you encourage others to do?
What you can do:
- Form a committee to find out how youth can be targeted during your community’s next Point-In-Time count.
- Get involved in your community’s bi-annual Point-In-Time Counts as a youth advocate and/or provider.
- If you are already counting youth, re-visit your methodology and practices to make room for improvements.
What the Administration can do:
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and HUD should work together to make the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) the sole database for all homeless providers.
- HUD should align HMIS’s reporting on age with HUD’s definition of youth, which is between the ages of 18 and 24.
- HUD ought to have HMIS collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity regardless of age.
- Additionally, HUD should include in HMIS any additional information that HHS identifies is necessary to be in alignment with its runaway and homeless youth outcomes such as grade completion at entrance, length of stay in foster care and juvenile justice, and physical and mental health status.
- HHS should produce the national prevalence and incidence study of homeless youth.
What Congress can do:
- Congress should fund the prevalence and incidence study that was mandated in the Reconnecting Homeless Youth Act of 2008, which reauthorized the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA).
If you would like to submit a report of your community’s targeted youth count to be added to the map, please feel free to contact me, André C. Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s blog comes from Jennifer Ho, Deputy Director at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. She writes today about USICH’s initiative to update the Federal Strategic Plan to include further content on youth experiencing homelessness and educational outcomes of homeless or at-risk youth.
Almost two years have passed since we launched Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. With the help and support from thousands of stakeholders across the United States we have made progress against the bold goals of the Plan by increasing investment in solutions, adopting proven tools to prevent and end homelessness, breaking down silos, and improving data collection, analysis, and reporting. We remain committed to the goals of Opening Doors and to the comprehensive approach described in the Plan.
For this year’s update to Opening Doors, we are responding to requests that additional content and clarity would be helpful in two key areas: early childhood learning and educational outcomes for youth and children experiencing homelessness; and broad strategies on unaccompanied youth up through age 24.
Barbara Poppe and I have toured many youth-serving programs across America since the release of Opening Doors. We have talked with many youth, as well as leadership from providers and advocacy groups. We have also convened an interagency dialogue across the many federal agencies that have youth-specific responsibilities. We have been focused on what is known about the magnitude of the problem and what interventions work best for which groups of youth. We have also been talking with education liaisons for children who are experiencing homelessness and advocates with expertise on early child development, early childhood education, and education generally to understand what is needed to improve educational outcomes for all children and youth experiencing homelessness.
In December 2011, our Council held the first USICH meeting devoted exclusively to homeless youth. A robust conversation led by Commissioner Bryan Samuels from the Administration on Families, Youth, and Children with four Secretaries from Labor, VA, HUD, and HHS made our charge clear. Homelessness for young adults is unacceptable. And while we have a lot to learn about the size of the problem and what works best for whom, we must take urgent action to improve support for youth experiencing homelessness.
Just last month, I had the privilege of joining USICH Chair and HHS Secretary Sebelius in Cincinnati, Ohio where we toured Lighthouse, one of the leading youth homelessness providers in the nation. Secretary Sebelius spoke with Lighthouse’s leader, Bob Mecum, as well as executive directors from youth providers in Seattle, Chicago, and Pinellas Park, Florida. The Secretary also spent time talking with youth who were living at one of Lighthouse’s shelters and in its brand new supportive housing. Hearing from youth directly has been critical in shaping a federal framework for ending youth homelessness.
Similar to the original development of Opening Doors, USICH has developed an interactive forum for our stakeholders to provide feedback into this process. The links below enable stakeholders to enter this forum and share their ideas and input in these areas by April 30:
- Help us improve early childhood learning and educational outcomes for youth, and children experiencing homelessness.
- Help us end youth homelessness
Feedback from this forum, combined with guidance USICH has received from youth and other experts in the field, will help USICH create:
- A set of actionable steps that states and communities can take to improve educational supports for homeless youth and children.
- A strong framework for preventing and ending youth homelessness that will set us on a path to reaching our 2020 goal.
- A focused set of priorities USICH and our federal partners will pursue in both the short -and long-term.
We are excited to see your creative ideas, which will help us continue to make progress towards our vision that no one should experience homelessness—no one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has made it clear that it wants to take the lead among federal agencies in promoting equality and inclusion for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. On January 30, HUD announced new regulations intended to ensure that HUD’s core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. These regulations, called the Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs – Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity regulation, makes housing available for everyone by prohibiting discrimination and promoting diversity. There are four basic principles of the policy:
- General equal access provision. makes housing available and is new in the final rule, and acts as a catch-all for what’s not covered elsewhere.
- Clarification on the definition of family.
- Prohibition of inquiry of sexual orientation and gender identity for the purposes of determining eligibility. This provision does not prohibit voluntary and anonymous reporting of sexual orientation or gender identity that can aid in data collection requirements.
- The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) cannot discriminate. Final rule adds sexual orientation and gender identity
This rule will affect a number of lives across the nation and will cross economic lines as well. It communicates that housing discrimination is not acceptable. For more information, watch HUD’s webinar on the new regulation, below.
What can be done now to improve the experiences of unaccompanied runaway and homeless youth? The question is an important one given the lack of new resources dedicated to federal appropriations of the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act. In fact funding decreased from $116 million to $115 million dollars while unaccompanied runaway and homeless youth continue to be in need of more shelter, housing, and services.
But there are still ways to help. Among them:
Increase family intervention efforts. Research shows that most youth who runaway return home and youth who maintain contact with their family fare better than those who do not. By implementing family intervention strategies we can tap into built-in support network and housing resources and avoid sending youth into the system. While doing this, providers should continue to assess the appropriateness and safety of a youth returning home to his or her family.
Decrease barriers. Youth who are most in need may present with the most challenging behaviors. Targeting those most in need and ensuring that they have the ability to access services can lead to a decrease in the number of youth experiencing homelessness.
Decrease involuntary exits. Decreasing involuntary exits will increase youth’s access to an array of supportive services. These youth might otherwise be at greater risk of becoming disconnected when told to leave a program. To prevent involuntary exits, service providers can provide youth support during their lowest and most vulnerable moments.
Improve data on youth. To effectively solve youth homelessness, we first need to understand the scope of the problem. We need to know the number of homeless youth, how long they have been away from home, services they’ve accessed while on their own, their age, gender, race, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Communities can improve their counts of homeless youth during point-in-time counts or by conducting youth-specific counts and /or surveys. Also, programmatic data can be improved by de-duplicating the tally of youth served in drop-in centers and transitional housing programs.
Today’s guest post comes to us from Shahera Hyatt.
I would ﬁrst like to start off by thanking the Alliance for explicitly including youth in this year’s conference on ending homelessness. For those of us who work day in and out on this issue, it was great to be with others to share our knowledge, experience, and passion for this work.
There were a few themes over the course of the conference regarding youth homelessness, with the ﬁrst being the need for more timely and consistent data on this population. Not only was there a workshop on this topic, but Nan Roman gave considerable time to the issue in her plenary speech on the ﬁrst day of the conference. She stated that even though the current data on the size and scope of youth homelessness is severely lacking (and I whole-heartedly agree), moving forward with the data we’ve got is absolutely critical.
To that end, she presented data from the NISMART-II in a new way, stating that about 96 percent of runaways under the age of 18 return home within one week (although many cycle in and out of homelessness). Policy Analyst Samantha Batko translated the data in a way that hasn’t been done before by identifying characteristics about the trajectory of youth homelessness in the hopes to shed new light on where interventions should be targeted.
This information indicates that supporting crisis interventions to help facilitate the process of returning home is essential. While in the case of the 400,000 who are unable or unwilling to return home for various reasons such as abuse or parental incarceration, utilizing housing strategies such as transitional living or permanent supportive housing would be most useful. While many of us wonder how the NISMART data holds up today, we hope that there are still valuable lessons to be learned that can be applied and implemented immediately.
The second theme was the need for a variety of different housing strategies for homeless youth and young adults to get them into stable living conditions. There was a particular emphasis on rapid re-housing, a model that has been successful for other segments of the homeless population.
The third theme was the heterogeneity of the homeless youth. This was repeated time and again by various presenters. The workshop on creating a blueprint to end youth homelessness focused largely on creating a new typology that recognizes these differences, subtly urging the audience to consider the unique needs of each youth in determining interventions. This typology identiﬁed three groups: the temporarily disconnected (this population generally retums home on their own), the unstably connected (for which family reuniﬁcation may be most helpful), and the chronically disconnected (best served by permanent supportive housing or transitional housing).
I look forward to seeing how these ideas continue to evolve both in policy and in practice.
Shahera Hyatt is the Director of the California Homeless Youth Project where her focus is translating research on homeless youth for the legislative audience. Hyatt is also the co-chair of the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center’s Homeless Youth Initiative, and is a member of the Alliance’s National Advisory Council on LGBT youth.
Today’s guest post is written by Erin. She blogged from the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness.
The moment I walked into the grand Biltmore Hotel, I noticed the energy. This hotel is full of focus and excitement. Right away, I met providers, researchers, funders from across the county and more. In the opening session, I heard the goal to end youth homelessness by 2020. This challenging goal excites and motivates me. It signifies that we are ready and charged to address those youth who are struggling with homelessness.
Yesterday I presented about my program, The Groundwork Project: Wraparound with Homeless Youth, to a packed room. When I asked the audience how many in the room were youth providers, only about five of the 100+ people in the room raised their hands. That tells me that new providers are intrigued to learn more about strategies that may work with youth in their communities. Critical wraparound themes of family/relatives as allies, espousing a youth development mindset, and providing continuums of integrated care were weaved throughout many of the presentations and conversations I participated in.
As I pack my bag to leave LA and return to Seattle, I also want to pack with me all these lessons, connections and inspiration from this conference. This conference has been formative for me as a professional; it has compelled me to seriously consider data, commit to implementing promising strategies, and recharge our wraparound program in Washington State as part of larger national effort to end youth homelessness.
This has been a chance to reflect on the values that guide my work with homeless youth and identify the tools my programs has with which to make an impact on the lives of the youth we serve. I am grateful to the Alliance and to all those gathered here in LA for joining together to teach, discuss, and advocate for the homeless youth and young adults that we represent.
Erin Maguire works with homeless youth and young adults at Catholic Community Services of Western Washington in Seattle, WA. She is the manager of the Groundwork Project: High Fidelity Wraparound with Homeless Youth at Catholic Community Services of Western Washington. She can be reached at ErinMa@ccsww.org or 206-327-2474.
Today’s guest post is written by Iain DeJong, who blogged from the National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness.
As discussed in the plenary sessions of the day, a framework is beginning to emerge thanks to the work of the Alliance and research from Dr. Paul Toro from Wayne State to better understand the number of youth that experience homelessness and the length of time that they experience homelessness. It is an exciting time to have renewed energy and focus of attention on such an important issue.
In the afternoon session focused on Effectively Collecting, Coordinating and Using Youth Data, Andre Wade from the Alliance moderated an informative and thought-provoking session featuring Mark Silverbush from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, Peter Connery from Applied Survey Research, and Shahera Hyatt from the California Homeless Youth Project. Passionate and informed speakers, they collectively raised the bar in how we need to think about data in the pursuit of ending youth homelessness.
Right-sizing interventions and costing out the appropriate response requires that we know how many youth experience homelessness and the depth of their support needs. Runaway and throwaway youth number 1.7 million; but that research does not focus on homeless youth exclusively. General point-in-time counts need improvements if they are going to effectively account for the number of homeless youth. Some jurisdictions have focused on youth specific counts; this is an encouraging practice, especially given that HMIS data is often incomplete or oblivious when it comes to youth.
Youth are not a homogeneous group. New efforts to improve data capture related to youth homelessness needs to appreciate the heterogeneity within the youth population. For example, strategies to meet the needs of LGBT youth may be very different than the needs of a youth that has had a recent argument at home; youth aging out of foster care may be different than youth that find themselves homeless as a result of intergenerational homelessness in their own family. Obviously there are overlaps across these populations. However, isolating specific needs will result in better knowledge and hopefully improve youth-specific interventions.
Peter Connery suggests that a two-step process can be helpful for better understanding the homeless youth needs in any community. The first step is an observation study. The second step is a more detailed survey conducted with a sample of the youth population. Surveys are administered by youth peers.
The findings from the survey conducted across multiple cities are illuminating. Gender breakdown from Peter’s research shows almost a 50-50 split amongst males and females (2 percent transgendered), and more are between the ages of 18 and 24. The top five factors that contributed to homelessness amongst youth were: conflict with parents/guardians, financial issues, emotional abuse, addiction and physical abuse. One in five of the youth surveyed indicated that their parents currently are or were homelessness. Almost 50 percent had parents or caregivers that abused drugs or alcohol when they were younger. More than a quarter had an instance of foster care.
Again, almost a quarter had their own children and almost 50 percent had their children living with them. Almost one in five do not seek services for fear of CPS and 15 perecnt do not seek services for fear of contact with their families. More than a third indicated they share sex, drugs, or both for a place to stay. Food insecurity was the top need of the youth surveyed. Counter to many misconceptions, almost 9 out of 10 of homeless youth surveyed stay in the same county year round. As Peter described “home grown and staying put….it isn’t a tourism problem.”
Shahera Hyatt offered a state-level perspective on homeless youth data. She explained that state-level data is important because funding is based on data and resources are limited. Measuring change over time is critical for state policy. Because data collection is inconsistent and unreliable, especially when it comes to homeless youth, the needs of homeless youth are under-represented. The data that does exist can be inaccurate, even fictitious, and that doesn’t help policymakers. Shahera explained the need for a State Interagency Council on Homelessness, a statewide task force on youth homelessness data, the need to coordinate existing state-level homelessness data collection among state agencies, coordinating with existing federal and local homelessness data collection efforts, modifying and utilizing existing statewide surveys and research and establishing uniform approaches to collecting data. There is also value in promoting and distributing a “best practices” toolkit with CoC jurisdictions.
Mark Silverbush offered insights into the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s efforts to get better youth data through specific youth counts. Very practically, Mark walked through the “nuts and bolts of conducting a successful homeless youth count” in an effort to offer insights into how other communities may go about doing their own successful homeless youth count. While Los Angeles admittedly has more youth service providers than other parts of the country, they do not have the capacity to meet the demand given the size of the issue in the CoC (3,959 homeless youth and most in the 18-24 year old category - roughly the same number of all homeless people in Oklahoma;), and the sheer geographic size that the CoC covers.
Mark explained the need for buy-in from youth-serving agencies to conduct a youth specific count. He further explained the need for role clarity, so that partners involved in the county have an understood purpose during the count. The strength of each partner helps make the count successful. Furthermore, through a revision of approach, they found that they got better count results when providers were counting in their own service area. Youth outreach workers have proven to be especially effective from planning through to implementation.
Work remains to be done to improve youth data. But the speakers in the session demonstrated some very promising approaches and thinking about making practical improvements. Following through on some of the approaches suggested may help improve youth homeless data across the country.
Iain De Jong is the President & CEO of OrgCode Consulting, Inc. He has been working with many communities to help them improve their housing programs in advance of HEARTH. He is a frequent and popular speaker at Alliance Conferences. You can see him at the Conference in February in Los Angeles. Iain is also the chief blogger, tweeter and FaceBook persona for OrgCode. Take a look at www.orgcode.com or @orgcode orwww.facebook.com/orgcode