The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recently released an amendment to Opening Doors, the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness. The amendment, which USICH officials developed with its federal partners, addresses the education needs of children experiencing homelessness and provides strategies to solve the problem of homelessness amongst youth.
The amendment, which calls for data, more research, more resources, systems-level thinking, and true collaborations across systems and disciplines, adds depth and context to the administration’s current thinking on what’s needed to address these issues.
This new perspective comes from two models included in the amendment, one that outlines a new strategy for obtaining more accurate data on youth, and another, which shows the administration’s framework for ending youth homelessness, which was released in conjunction with USICH’s June 2012 council meeting.
The new amendment:
- Adds robust language on obtaining a more comprehensive understanding of the scope of youth homelessness;
- Outlines new strategies for increasing access to education for unaccompanied youth and improving their educational outcomes;
- Adds a new emphasis on increasing access for unaccompanied youth to early childhood education programs;
- Adds a new focus on awareness among practitioners of the importance of child and youth development;
- Outlines new strategies to support healthy child and youth development within housing programs;and
- Adds a new focus on advancing the health and housing stability for youth experiencing homelessness and youth exiting the foster care and juvenile justice systems.
We still have a lot of work to do if we are to end youth homelessness by 2020. However, this amendment speaks to the administration’s overall commitment to children and youth experiencing homelessness.
Now it’s time for us to determine what housing models and support services are the most effective for youth who are unable to return home or be reconnected with their families through family intervention.
We need to improve the crisis response mechanism for getting youth off of the street and connected to services. And lastly, we need to size these resources and bring them to scale for universal implementation – before 2020.