Today’s guest blog post was contributed by Ann Marie Oliva, the Director of the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs (SNAPS) at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the office that manages HUD’s homeless programs.
Since the implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, we have made good progress in ending homelessness for veterans and the chronically homeless, and along the way have learned a lot about what works. As we move forward, we want to be sure that preventing and ending homelessness among unaccompanied youth is a priority at both the national and local levels. Getting better data on this population is the first step in making progress towards that goal.
In the past, HUD’s homeless assistance grants programs defined youth as persons less than 18 years old, and adults as persons 18 years of age and above. We realized, however, that this definition didn’t allow us to really understand how many young people are homeless and what their specific needs are. HUD decided to change this definition – in part to align with other federal agencies’ definitions – in the implementation of the new Homelessness HEARTH Act programs. The final rule on the Definition of Homeless, which took effect this past January, expands the definition of homelessness to include unaccompanied youth under 25 years old. This will allow us to count the number of homeless youth more accurately, and to help them with the housing and services that match their needs.
In the upcoming January 2013 Point-In-Time count, HUD is expanding its data collection efforts to differentiate persons under the age of 18, those between 18 and 24, and persons over the age of 24. This will be the first time that we are requiring communities to report to us on the number of homeless children in families, the number of unaccompanied youth, and the number of homeless transition-aged youth. It is an important step in making progress towards ending youth homelessness by 2020 – one of the four major goals of Opening Doors.
We need the help and focus of all of our grantees and partners to make that step a success. Once we have this important data, the objectives and strategies outlined by the USICH to improve the educational outcomes of children experiencing homelessness and to prevent and end homelessness for unaccompanied youth – as described in their most recent amendment to Opening Doors – can be more fully implemented. And that is the next step towards meeting the goal we all have – making sure no child is forced to live on our streets.
More information about the requirements for the 2013 Point-In-Time Count and about a new special initiative underway to improve counting and reporting on homeless youth can be found on our web site at www.hudhre.info.