The Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program: A Comprehensive Approach to Reduce Youth Homelessness

Late last month the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the third round of awards for its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). The total funding for this round is $75 million, and it will be distributed among 23 communities around the country, including 8 rural communities.

Congress first began allocating YHDP funds in 2016 to “demonstrate how a comprehensive approach… can dramatically reduce youth homelessness.” This shift to a systemic response is what has enabled communities to make such progress on veteran and family homelessness. YHDP helps communities do  the same for young people!

Components of YHDP

Some of the most important aspects of YHDP are its threshold requirements: Communities must partner with both their public child welfare agencies (PCWAs) and a Youth Action Board (YAB).

Youth homelessness and foster care involvement are intimately connected, so PCWAs have a vital role to play in partnering with Continuums of Care (CoCs) to prevent and end youth homelessness in YHDP communities. Together they  are now engaging in the hard work of building seamless systems to respond to homelessness among homeless minors who may have run away from abuse or neglect, to decrease homelessness among youth aging out of foster care, and to better address homelessness among former foster youth who are currently homeless but may be eligible for housing and services provided by the PWCA. The lessons learned in YHDP communities on developing these cross-systems responses will serve as a template for all communities to improve CoC partnerships with all mainstream social service systems.

Transformative Partnerships

The requirement to partner with young people during all aspects of YHDP has been transformative for communities. People with lived experience provide invaluable expertise for improving homelessness programs and systems, and HUD has demonstrated the importance of these partnerships by working with members of the National Youth Forum on Homelessness from the beginning.

Young people have been involved with shaping and scoring the YHDP applications. They are also providing on-the-ground technical assistance to YHDP communities to help older adults understand adultism and how it can make them think they know what’s best for young people. Again, the lessons learned on partnering with young people on YABs in YHDP communities will provide a great model for CoCs to create authentic partnerships with all people with lived experience of homelessness, regardless of population.

To learn more about these and other early lessons learned and to find many more great YHDP resources, check out HUD’s YHDP page. And for all the communities that haven’t yet gotten YHDP, be on the lookout for round four, and keep those applications coming. Because even just the process of applying, especially in collaboration with young people, can make your community better!