It is not often that a community builds a whole new system from scratch — with no additional funding. But over the course of a year and a half, that is exactly what Palm Beach County, Florida has done regarding youth homelessness.
For the amazing, system-transforming work that Palm Beach undertook during and after their 100 Day challenge of housing youth, the Alliance is proud to recognize Palm Beach County as the winner of the 2019 Excellence in Ending Youth Homelessness Award.
The Alliance strongly believes that setting and accomplishing aggressive goals is key to housing more people, and no community exemplifies this strategy better than Palm Beach County. Beginning in late 2017, the County developed ambitious targets, gathered dozens of stakeholders, and led a 100-Day housing challenge with service providers. As a result, Palm Beach County was able to house 121 youth within that 100 day period—despite the County having no youth homelessness system previously in place.
The community has housed a total of 367 homeless youth in the past 20 months, using strategies like youth outreach and coordinated entry specialists, partnering with the Housing Authorities and Child Welfare to secure vouchers with homeless youth prioritized, and expanding a Youth Advisory Board.
To meet this need, community leaders crafted multi-sector partnerships between the County, service providers, and corporate and philanthropic organizations. Palm Beach focused on providing the Housing First intervention of Rapid Re-Housing to youth and innovated with room-sharing arrangements to maximize that resource. Youth advisors provided key insight, progress did not let up, and Palm Beach County’s annual Point in Time Count dropped an incredible 30% in the youth category.
Most importantly, though, Palm Beach has centered their services and strategy around those who are most marginalized. Of the youth housed in the initial 100-Day challenge, 100% were high-acuity and 81% were youth of color and/or LGBTQ youth. Young people and partners have provided training and important leadership in the development of the system, especially in educating government and nonprofit partners around issues of LGBTQ youth inclusion and equity.
Palm Beach County’s successes demonstrate what happens when community leaders and stakeholders are all pulling in the same direction. They identified an area of need, set targets, and centered the right voices in developing a dynamic strategy to house more youth.
And the particular success of Palm Beach represents a broader success in housing young people nationwide. Twenty-one communities have completed 100 day challenges and housed 2,485 youth, and 21 communities have received federal Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) resources with 50 more to come. Many types of youth homelessness initiatives continue to succeed. This progress is worth honoring—not just for Palm Beach County, but for all who work to serve homeless youth.
The Alliance will recognize Palm Beach County (represented by multi-sector leaders Wendy Tippett, Katherine Hammer, Nydia Sabugo-Marrou, Michael Murray, and Sophia Eccelston) at a special Awards Recognition Event during the 2019 National Conference on Ending Homelessness on July 22 in Washington, D.C.