Posts Tagged ‘Youth Campaign’
Special thanks to Rachel Costas, Alliance intern, for her help with today’s blogpost.
The Alliance is delighted and lucky to announce two new members of our staff! André Wade joins us to serve as point person on youth policy; Lisa Stand offers her expertise on health care policy.
Throughout his career, André worked with children/families who experienced homelessness at some point in their lives and learned that children exiting foster care children often experiencing homelessness as young adults.
Upon arriving at the Alliance and examining homelessness and homelessness policy, he (like most of us) was surprised by the lack of data on homeless youth and dearth of policy around the issue. He also observed much more closely that homelessness is, in fact, a problem that exists “literally everywhere.” Luckily, Andre is eager and ready to join the mission and work on LGBTQ homeless youth issues and youth and child welfare issues as they relate to homelessness.
Our new youth programs and policy analyst is a Las Vegas native with a fondness for white chocolate chip cookies.
Our new senior policy analyst, Lisa Stand, comes to us with a strong background in health care policy and an enthusiasm for the new health care reform policies. She especially interested in health care reform as it could aid people who need it most – namely, people experiencing homelessness.
Our new analyst has worked in health policy for her entire career; her most recent position was at the venerable AARP. And in the wide ranging field of health care, she’s particularly interested in the intersection of healthcare/mental health and housing issues and the way public health and social policy can affect societal change. She is – as many are – very interested in the notion that homelessness is a social problem that we can really end.
The Cheverly, MD native has a soft spot for reading, knitting, her two cats, and oatmeal cookies.
Please join me in welcoming the new members of the Alliance staff!
Okay, so I really mean what about the youth.
Today, we hosted our first in a series of webinars about youth homelessness.
Here’s the thing about youth homelessness: we know just enough to know that we hardly know anything at all.
We know a little: RHYA shows us that there are young people out there looking for help. Data from the juvenile justice and the foster care systems show us that young people are exiting those systems and ending up homeless. Research from institutions like Chapin Hall outline the relationship between youth homelessness and child welfare.
We know that there’s a problem.
But we’re grappling with pieces of the puzzle. And if we at the Alliance have learned anything at all, it’s that we must fully understand a problem in order to really get serious about solving it.
So we’re asking you guys to start with the data. On our webinar today, Barbara Poppe from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and Nan Roman, the Alliance’s own president, emphasized the importance of including youth in the 2011 community point-in-time counts. The first step to solving a problem, we’ve concluded, is to determine the scope of the problem.
As a critical observer in the field, I can testify that I’ve been hearing stories from advocates and reporters alike asking if there’s any evidence to back up anecdotal data about an increase in homeless youth and specifically about the vulnerability of those in the 18 – 25 age range. I can’t say I’ve noticed an increase – or point to any data that would validate that presumption – but I can say that the heightened increase only adds fuel to the fervor to get an accurate count.
What about you? Have you noticed an increase in youth homelessness? Does your community count homeless youth? Have you noticed increased attention to this special subpopulation? We want to hear from you!
And remember to sign up for the second webinar in the series: Including Youth in PIT Counts, Part 2: A Case Study of San Jose and Santa Clara County. This webinar will provide an in-depth case study of how one community, Santa Clara county and San Jose, CA, undertook specific efforts to include youth in its point-in-time count. It will be held on Wednesday, November 17 from 2 – 3 PM ET.
News stories from across the country this week seemed to point to a growing epidemic of youth homelessness.
In New Hampshire a letter to the editor (aptly) titled “In Claremont, 1 in 10 kids is homeless – Is New Hampshire really okay with that?” called for more funding for youth programs. Headed out west, in Green Bay, WI another piece reports a 20 percent increase over last year in the number of school-aged kids experiencing homelessness.
How can we let this happen? I think most people agree that youth homelessness is a problem that just plain shouldn’t exist.
It’s time to take action. Unfortunately, there is just not enough data on youth homelessness – and we can’t solve a problem unless we fully understand it.
Luckily (!) we’re here to help! The Alliance president, Nan Roman, along with executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness will hold a webinar on Monday, November 8 at 2 p.m. ET going over strategies to acquire an accurate homeless youth count. We know they’re out there, we know we can help, and now it’s time to figure out how. Join us for our webinar on Monday – register here.
Another buzz topic this week was the prevalence of homelessness in rural areas. Folks in rural North Carolina and North Dakota are proclaiming “Homelessness is here.” The prevalence of rural homelessness can come as a surprise, even to those in the communities themselves. Homelessness in rural areas can actually be harder than homelessness in more urban areas – many rural areas have fewer services and higher rates of poverty than urban areas. This may be one reason that unsheltered homelessness occurs at a slightly higher incidence in rural areas than in urban areas.
Sleeping on the streets anywhere in this country is a horrible experience, but sleeping on the streets of Alaska is becoming increasingly deadly, or so says Sen. Mark Begich. The senator from Alaska reports that 20 people have died while sleeping outside in the last few months; he’s asked the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness for help to address the growing problem.
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!
So, truth – it was a pretty slow news week. It seems like the news media covers homelessness in cycles: it gets really good (covering solutions and strategies and communities) and then it gets really bad (covering pan handling and camp outs).
I think we’re in an in-between phase.
This week, we noticed a very long feature on youth aging out of foster care in the Seattle Post Intelligencer written by reporters at Investigate West. While we at the Alliance wholeheartedly agree that this is an oft-overlooked and very important issue, we took serious issue with the article’s wildly inaccurate depiction of our own organization:
“At the national level, it’s barely on the radar of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a powerful advocacy group that provides information the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.”
In fact, not only is youth homelessness a 2010 Policy Priority for the Alliance, but in the last year alone, we’ve:
- published a series profiling the way some communities are using HPRP funds to assist youth,
- launched a youth site visit campaign encouraging legislators to examine the issue in their own communities,
- hired new staff to work on the issue,
- and – just this week – wrote a toolkit encouraging communities to fully incorporate youth in their January 2011 point-in-time counts.
I’m hoping that next time, before writing such inflammatory remarks, it would occur to a journalist to pick up the phone as I’m always happy to chat!
Moving right along: On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times put out a piece on the elderly living at (or below) the poverty line. Hat tip to writer Alexandra Zavis for covering an issue that, in my opinion, doesn’t get examined enough. We focus on children and adolescents and their parents but rarely, I think, do we shed any light on those in their golden years.
And it turns out, the years aren’t so golden. Zavis reveals that too many California seniors are just barely scraping by – and we agree. Last year, the Alliance published a brief called Demographics of Homelessness: The Rising Elderly Population in which we project that elderly homelessness will grow by a third by 2020 and double by 2050 if the current rate continues. It’s time to start talking about this problem.
And finally, Kamala Harris (currently the District Attorney of San Francisco and the Democratic nominee for California Attorney General) penned a piece for the Huffington Post on protetecting survivors of domestic violence.
In the piece, Harris writes about a San Francisco-started-turned-state law that prohibits landlords from evicting tenants who are survivors of domestic violence. Harris explains that in California, domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness for women and families. And for such vulnerable families, homelessness makes everything worse: women are less likely to access services or press charges, children’s schoolwork, health, and well-being suffers.
The relationship between domestic violence and homelessness is little acknowledged but significant. Here at the Alliance, we’re paying more and more attention to this relationship and researching ways to divert survivors from homelessness. Kudos to Harris for pointing it out so eloquently.
And that’s a wrap from us – have great weekend!
Our good friends Rosanne Haggerty of Common Ground in New York and Martha Kegel of UNITY in New Orleans authored a fantastic piece in defense of supportive housing. A proposed project in New Orleans – a city still suffering the effects of a hurricane five years past – would redevelop an abandoned nursing home into supportive housing for people with disabilities and low-income working people is facing opposition from the local community. Rosanne and Martha do such a great job articulating the argument, I’ll let them speak for themselves:
“Homelessness is a humanitarian crisis, but it is bad for a community in many other ways as well. By converting abandoned buildings into beautifully renovated apartments, supportive housing offers an opportunity to help solve several of New Orleans’ pressing problems at once. Housing the homeless is good for everyone.”
In other news: Massachusetts is kicking butt in implementing and executing their plan to end homelessness; the state has helped place 376 people in housing and has helped prevent almost 11,000 families from becoming homeless through a Housing First model. Even as the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance reports the numbers of new families and individuals seeking help continues to grow in the area, Boston’s Pine St. Inn claims to have eliminated 10 percent of their shelter beds due to successful housing placements – at an estimated savings of $9,000 per person. Way to go, MA!
A news bit: New York is getting its first government-certified residence for homeless women veterans and its sounds like a fantastic project.
And in news close to home (well, not geographically…) Our reporter friend Julia Lyon of The Salt Lake Tribune reported this week that homelessness among Utah’s school age children has jumped 48 percent since 2008. This is truly troubling, given what we know about the serious risks for young people experiencing homelessness. Living in shelters or on the streets, unaccompanied homeless youth are at a higher risk for physical and sexual assault or abuse and physical illness than their adult counterparts. Also, young people are at a higher risk for anxiety disorders, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and suicide because of increased exposure to violence while living on their own.
Troubling, indeed. What can I do to help, you ask? We have good news for you! We just launched a campaign to bring attention to this issue and encourage Congress to increase funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs. Get involved by telling us you’re interested – email Amanda Krusemark of our grassroots mobilizing team and she’ll get you started!
Today’s guest post comes from Jeremy Nichols – advocacy intern at the Alliance.
If you stop by the Alliance and pop your head in to see what the Advocacy staff is working on, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll hear rumblings about our Youth Site Visit Campaign.
What’s the Youth Site Visit Campaign, you ask? Good question! We’re asking homeless assistance providers around the country to invite their Member(s) of Congress to visit their programs over the Thanksgiving recess. (site visit, get it?)
With the Youth Site Visit Campaign, we hope to:
- Raise awareness among Members of Congress about the issue of youth homelessness
- Strengthen local relationships with Members of Congress from across the country
- Encourage Congress to increase funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) programs.
Youth homelessness is an issue that’s always bubbled just beneath the surface of headline news. Just today, there were two articles – one from Tampa, FL and the other from Pittsburgh, PA – about the troublesome incidence of youth homelessness.
It’s a serious if underreported problem: homeless youth are at higher risk than their adult counterparts of abuse, exploitation, violence, and crime. And if that weren’t enough, we’re really bad at finding them, counting them, and helping them out. Youth tend to fly under the radar of local and federal assistance programs, evade outreach efforts, and slip through the cracks of the system. Even when young people seek out help, they find few resources targeted to their age group and circumstances. The Alliance estimate there are approximately 50,000 street youth in the United States today.
RHYA programs are intended to make the difference. The programs help to prevent victimization, encourage family reunification, and ensure basic safety of unaccompanied children and youth. It’s the only federal law solely focused on unaccompanied, homeless youth, and it provides communities with resources to support a wide spectrum of housing and services: including shelter programs, transitional housing, street-based outreach, and the National Runaway Switchboard.
When it comes to advocacy, we have seen time and time again that one of the most effective ways to get members of Congress to pay attention to and truly understand the issue of homelessness is through site visits. These tours and conversations allow the member to see for him/herself the benefits that RHYA funding brings to their constituents.
We’re working with local homelessness providers across the country to plan, schedule, and host site visits by members of Congress to their youth programs.
Wanna give us a hand?
If you would like to get involved and invite a member of Congress to visit your youth program, let us know! We’ll help you figure out how to get the process started.
Remember: This is about solutions. By showing our legislators the important work made possible by the RHYA programs, we can both educate our leaders about this important issue and make it possible for them to take action. Stay tuned to the blog to see how the campaign shakes out!
Calling all youth advocates! We need your help! On September 15, the Alliance will be launching a year-long youth advocacy campaign aimed to educate and raise awareness about youth homelessness. The campaign will include a major push this fall for congressional members to visit local runaway and homeless youth programs across the country, in addition a big focus next spring on urging Congress to increase funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.
The site visit campaign will be launched on September 15 at 2 p.m. ET with a webinar on how to hold an effective site visit. The webinar will be a training tool for both new and old advocates, including tips for how to get congressional members to accept site visit invitations and how to use site visits to initiate lasting relationships with congressional members. Site visits are useful for both Members of Congress and local providers. They allow local advocates an opportunity to begin a long-term relationship with their congressional offices, in addition to helping Members to see first-hand how their actions in Washington impact local programs in their districts. Click here to register for the webinar.
The Alliance will work with interested advocates across the country to choose congressional targets and invite them to visit local programs. The Alliance will also help communities to plan an agenda for their site visits and otherwise make the most out of the visits to strengthen their relationships with their Members of Congress.
In the spring, the youth campaign will focus on fiscal year (FY) 2012 appropriations, with many activities aimed to urge Congress to increase funding for RHYA programs. Stay tuned for more details.
If you’re interested in taking part in any of this year’s youth advocacy campaign, please contact Amanda Krusemark (firstname.lastname@example.org).