Here at the Alliance offices, we’re busily preparing for our upcoming National Conference on Ending Family & Youth Homelessness. (And since everyone in DC is currently wondering when the next winter storm is going to dump any snow on us, we’re more than a little excited about being in sunny San Diego next month.) As the Alliance’s youth policy analyst, I’m currently working hard on organizing the youth homelessness content. And there is going to be a lot of it!
The conference is less than a month away. If you’re going to be attending, you’re probably already thinking about what workshops you want to attend. Here’s a quick look at the wide variety of youth-focused workshops we have lined up. In these workshops, we’ll be exploring what providers, researchers, and policymakers are doing to end youth homelessness by 2020, the goal set in Opening Doors, the national strategic plan to end homelessness.
Today Senators Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduced a bill reauthorizing the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which expired on Sept. 30, 2013. (Senators Cory Booker, D-NJ, and Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, also signed on to the bill as original co-sponsors.)
Ever since it was signed into law in 1974, the RHYA has been the only federal law exclusively dedicated to homeless youth, ensuring essential services like street outreach, basic shelter, and transitional living programs. The new reauthorization bill, the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act, goes even further by increasing protection for youth who are victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. It increases support for family intervention, and prohibits discrimination against homeless youth based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Alliance supports reauthorization of RHYA and the improvement of its programs so it can more effectively and efficiently serve homeless youth, particularly the most vulnerable youth who are on the streets and unsheltered every night.
The Administration typically releases their budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year during the first week of February. Unlike recent years, this year President Obama is expected to release his fiscal year (FY) 2016 Budget Proposal early next month (Monday, Feb. 2 to be exact), which will kick off the federal funding process earlier than in recent years. Here at the Alliance, we will be examining the budget closely to determine what it means for programs that serve people experiencing homelessness.
As usual, we will share these insights during a webinar, “President's Budget Proposal – Overview and Impact on Homelessness” next Thursday, Feb. 5, at 12 pm ET. We’re going to be discussing the Obama administration’s proposed funding levels for key homelessness and affordable housing programs, as well as upcoming opportunities for advocates.
In the next two weeks, volunteers across the country will set out to conduct a count of all homeless persons in their communities. Though it may be too late sign up to volunteer in your community’s 2015 Point-in-Time Count (here in D.C., volunteer registration is already closed), you can still help us out at the Alliance.
Every year the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities to conduct sheltered counts of people living in emergency shelter or transitional housing. Every other year, HUD requires communities to conduct unsheltered counts of people living in a place unfit for human habitation (such as in an abandoned building or in a park). This year is one of the years that both counts are required, so every community will be conducting both a sheltered and an unsheltered count.
Here at the Alliance, we track this data as it is released. Different communities release their count data at different times, and we want to know which communities are reporting an increase in homelessness and which ones are reporting a decrease. Of course, there are a lot of communities across the nation, so we can’t do this without your help.
Next week, volunteers and homeless service providers around the country will venture into wooded areas, under bridges, city parks, and subway lines in order to look for people living outdoors. This nationwide effort is designed to get the best possible “point-in-time” count of people experiencing homelessness – those living in shelters, transitional housing programs, or in places unintended for human habitation – on one given night.
We have seen too often that they will miss a very important segment of the homeless population: homeless youth.
There are many reasons homeless youth are missed in Point-in-Time Counts. Some are complicated and difficult to overcome. Youth may be spending the night with a stranger and are not on the street during the point-in-time count. Many will go to great lengths to avoid appearing homeless and may be reluctant to share their housing status with a stranger. Some youth under the age of 18 may fear child welfare involvement and so they may avoid interacting with people who might alert social service agencies to their lack of housing.
Young people who are out on the streets at night can't always be found in the same locations where homeless adults are found. Often they are not using the same social service programs, and many of those programs do not report data to the community’s Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS). To conductive a youth-inclusive count, communities will have to modify their traditional counting strategies. But in the meantime, here some easy steps for communities to implement for next week’s count: