Young people who are living on the streets alone. Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) program counts show us that there are young people seeking assistance in communities across the country. The National Extranet Optimized Runaway and Homeless Youth Management Information System (NEO-RHYMIS) shows us that there are thousands of young people seeking basic services and beds.
We know they’re out there – but that’s about all we know.
Lost in the mix of seasons greetings and veterans remembrance is a noteworthy event that doesn’t hit the radar for most Americans this month: it’s National Homeless Youth Awareness Month.
It’s a really important month. Despite the fact that everyone will agree that youth homelessness is an existing problem, there’s nothing else to agree on: we have no reliable or regular source of data on this vulnerable subpopulation. We know they’re there, we know they’re young, we know they need our help. But we don’t know how many there are, we don’t know much about the characteristics of this group, we don’t know how they enter or exit homelessness, we don’t know how they survive while experiencing homelessness, we don’t know how long they’re homeless, where, or how.
And we can’t solve a problem without fully understanding it.
So that’s where we need to start: with data.
We at the Alliance are encouraging our local friends and partners to make sure to include youth as part of their annual, HUD-mandated, homeless counts this coming January.
It’s harder than it sounds – most young people fly under the radar of regular homeless assistance systems. They may be minors and often don’t know about or trust the resources available to them and can have trouble accessing the services that are mostly targeted at adults anyway. They crash with friends, couch-surf, sleep on the streets, and find other inconspicuous ways of slipping by and surviving. We know that this is a tough ask.
But we’re prepared to offer some guidance. This coming Monday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. ET the Alliance and the National Network for Youth will host a webinar called “Counting Homeless Youth” that will examine the problem and offer strategies to acquire an accurate homeless youth count. Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness and Barbara Poppe, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, will kick off the call. (You can download our brief on Counting Homeless Youth on our website before the call!).
So if you have the time, take a moment for youth homelessness next Monday and learn a little something about how to help those young vulnerable people on the streets. As a bonus, you get to hear from two superstars in the field exactly how to help out.
Register for the webinar, or ring us if you have any problems!