So far this week, we’ve learned about what is known about the scope of youth homelessness and some of the serious dangers youth face while homeless. Now, we are going to move on to some of the things we know can end youth homelessness.
Homelessness among youth is ended the same way overall homelessness is ended—with housing. Housing for youth, however, may look a little different than housing for adults experiencing homelessness.
Some quick facts: The majority of youth who runaway return home to their families quickly. Some youth return home but it takes a little longer. While this process (called reunification) represents a positive housing solution for these youth and should be expedited, youth need a safe place to live and attend school in the interim. Emergency shelters, basic centers, and sometimes host homes provide this safe, intermediate housing solution.
Then there are those young people who are unable to be reunified with family. For them, we need longer-term housing solutions. These come in a variety of models:
- Host Homes. Host homes provide youth with caring adults in a home environment. The families that provide host homes can be volunteers or receive subsidies for taking in a homeless youth. Host homes are a particularly viable, low-cost option for younger youth who are not able or ready to rent apartments on their own.
- Rapid re-housing. Rapid re-housing quickly places a youth in an apartment (sometimes with a roommate) and provides rental assistance for a limited time to allow the youth to stabilize in housing, possibly finish high school or receive a GED, and obtain gainful employment. Many communities used resources from the stimulus-funded Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) to jump start rapid re-housing for youth and have seen great success.
- Transitional Housing or Transitional Living. Transitional housing or transitional living programs are also time-limited programs (generally there’s an 18 months to 2 year maximum). These programs also come in a variety of models from congregate group homes to scattered site apartments where youth hold a lease in their own names and are responsible for some portion of the rent.
- Permanent Supportive Housing. For some older youth who have been homeless for a long period of time or repeatedly AND have a documented disability, permanent supportive housing (PSH) is a housing model that will provide them with permanent housing and the long-term supportive services they need. PSH has proven to be cost- efficient for communities when targeted toward this chronically homeless demographic.
Regardless of the length of time that a youth needs housing or services, all housing programs serving youth should be accessible to all youth. Specifically, youth housing programs should use mechanisms to screen youth into their programs and not out of their programs. Such practice has denied services to youth with mental health and /or substance abuse issues.
Similarly, programs – and especially programs providing longer-term housing – should try their best not to involuntarily exit youth from their programs. As young and developing people, youth often make mistakes (disobey the rules of the, drink or use drugs, engage in risky behaviors, etc.) which could jeopardize their standing in housing programs. While such incidences are important and should be addressed, programs serving youth should be attuned to the development needs of youth and never discharge a young person to homelessness..
More questions? For more information on solutions to youth homelessness, please visit the Alliance website.
Photo courtesy of the Phoenix House Youth Shelter.