Thursday, November 15, 2012

Youth Homeless Awareness Month Means Guest Bloggers!

This week we welcome Andre Wade from the National Alliance to End Homelessness as our guest blogger. This blog is the second in our month long series of blogs in honor of National Youth Homelessness Awareness Month. To find out how you can get more involved throughout the month of November and year round
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Homeless Youth Awareness Month: 
What We Know, What We Need

November is Homeless Youth Awareness Month, a time to bring attention to what some call a ‘hidden population,’ because in some areas these youth are present but invisible in the community. Consequently, many cities across the nation are unaware of the actual number of youth experiencing homelessness in their community. Therefore, cities are unaware of these youths’ characteristics and needs. This begs the question, “Who are these youth and what do they need?”

We hear a lot about the 1.7 million minor youth that experience a runaway or homelessness episode each year. Well, if you break down these numbers you will find that 1.3 million minor youth return home quite quickly, but approximately 400,000 minor youth are homeless for a week or more and need shelter, housing, and services. An additional 150,000 young people ages 18-24 that experience homelessness each year are in the adult system. These families are headed by young parents who have very young children.

Youth experiencing homelessness need a variety of services and housing options to respond to their crisis to get them off of the street and into safety. Most youth who come into contact with youth homelessness providers need shelter. They also need help to re-connect to their family through family intervention services, which reunifies youth with their family. Family intervention is something all youth should be provided regardless of age, parental status, sexual orientation, or gender identity when it’s safe to do so. Family intervention can address the core issue that led to them leaving the home. 

When youth are unable to go back home, developmentally appropriate housing options should be made available. Often time youth are provided with transitional housing for up to 18 months. While they are in housing they are also able to access services such as case management, education, employment, and counseling. Additionally, other housing models should be available such as rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing – depending upon the needs of the youth.

For young parents who are struggling with homelessness, Early Childhood Home Visiting Programs can be valuable partners, for youth who have little social supports in place. These programs provide supports that are designed to improve the safety, developmental outcomes, and health of the child, while increasing the skills and self-sufficiency of the parents.

In January 2013 communities across the nation will conduct HUD mandatory bi-annual counts of people experiencing homelessness. For the first time, youth ages 18-24 are a recognized population for communities to report to HUD. The data collected will give communities better knowledge of the prevalence of youth homelessness so that interventions can be sized and policies can be created to solve the problem. With more data and research we’ll be able to better size interventions to solve this epidemic.

André C. Wade is a Program and Policy Analyst at the National Alliance to End Homelessness. His portfolio includes runaway and homeless youth, youth exiting foster care, LGBTQ youth homelessness, and commercial sexual exploitation of children. Currently, André is a Board of Director for StandUp for Kids, and Advisory Board member of Cyndi Lauper’s project, Forty to None, André is a former advisory board member for the Federal Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center. André earned a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

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