I am so happy to welcome you to our national conference on ending homelessness. The board and staff of the Alliance are deeply gratified that you have joined us here. And we thank all of you, also, for what you do to end homelessness across the nation.
This has been a year with many challenges. The gap between those who have and those who do not is growing; and many who are poor feel that their opportunities to escape poverty are shrinking. There are tremendous and persistent racial disparities. The cost of housing is increasing, but incomes are not keeping pace.
These are the big picture problems, and we have our challenges on the homelessness side of things, as well. At the national level, funding is getting harder to come by. The work that you are doing – coordinated assessment and entry, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, critical time intervention, housing first, trauma informed care – are more sophisticated and effective. But they are also harder, requiring different skill sets, different administrative infrastructures, and different types of accountability.
In this webinar, Bill Motsavage with Valley Youth House discusses the lessons they have learned while helping youth connect to housing through the Core Components of Rapid Re-Housing, including financial assitance, case management, and housing identification strategies. He also discussed the benefits of expanding overall capacity to serve homeless youth.
For too long, the needs of most homeless youth have gone unaddressed. While communities around the country run many good programs to help them, these programs are typically filled to capacity and serve only a fraction of youth in need.
That means that tonight, many homeless youth, including youth under the age of 18, will have no safe place to stay. Instead, they will camp out in abandoned buildings, in the woods, in garages, or spend the night in homes where they are in danger of abuse or sexual exploitation. Or they may just walk the streets all night.
Earlier this year, the Urban Institute released a report that examines the experiences of young Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) youth who have engaged in “survival sex” in New York City. Survival sex is a term frequently used to describe the exchange of sexual acts for money or goods that people require to live (e.g. food and shelter)
Of all the findings in this compelling report, “Surviving the Streets of New York,” one in particular should give homeless service providers pause: “Many [youth] … credited the instability and rules associated with emergency housing with driving them back to the street [and sexual exploitation].”
Whether you work with unaccompanied youth, families, or single adults experiencing homelessness, I want you to stop and think about the proposed Homeless Children and Youth Act, S.256 and its implications. Frankly it is one of those pieces of legislation that sound awesome until you pull back the curtain. It is not mom and apple pie. There are implications to this that we need to dissect and consider from a funding, operational, and policy perspective. It is possible to think critically about the bill and still be supportive of ending homelessness amongst youth, as well as ending homelessness for children and their families. And yes, there are implications to communities and service providers that customarily do not work with youth or families. S.256 impacts all people experiencing homelessness, funders, service providers, and Continua of Care.
Here are the highlights of S.256.