On Wednesday, July 12, the White House and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness recognized some of the foremost leaders in responding to youth homelessness at Champions of Change: Fight Against Homelessness. The 13 awardees shared their own experiences serving youth in two panel discussions hosted by the Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Bryan Samuels of the Administration for Children, Youth, and Families.
A recurring theme of the day was the shortage of resources needed to address the problem of youth homelessness. During the discussion, one panelist speculated that New York City’s subway system could be that city’s largest provider of overnight accommodation for homeless youth.
Panelists also spoke about the importance of helping youth and their families reconnect and ensuring that appropriate services are in place for them when that is not possible. In Santa Clara, CA, up to a third of youth served by the Bill Wilson Center have homeless parents, which has led the agency to increase the resources it provides to help families and their children stay together.
Panelists explored how to improve services for youth, many of whom have complex needs. Awardee Sherilyn Adams of Larkin Street Youth Services in San Francisco noted that the difficulty lies not in dealing with the kids themselves but, rather, contending with the insufficient systems meant to support them.