At the December 13 quarterly meeting of the DC Interagency Council on Homelessness (ICH), members agreed by unanimous voice vote to adopt the ICH Youth Subcommittee’s Comprehensive Plan to End Youth Homelessness (short title TBD).
The youth plan will complement the ICH’s Homeward DC plan which addresses homelessness among adults and families. The ICH Council’s approval of the plan is a culmination of more than six years of community efforts to bring youth homelessness in the District to light, and to meet that awareness with dedicated action.
For DCAYA, the first major benchmark was reached in November 2011 with our release of From the Streets to Stability: A study of youth homelessness in the District of Columbia. Before that time, little to no concrete information was available related to the issue of youth homelessness in DC – in terms of the size of the population, or the unique needs and characteristics of homeless youth. The report highlighted the need for a more services and for a diverse array of supportive services and programs for youth, and the groundbreaking effort led to more people taking notice over the next several years. It was followed up in October 2013 with a community coalition-led Bold Strategy to End Youth Homelessness.
In May 2014, DC Council passed the End Youth Homelessness Amendment Act, requiring a new youth drop-in center and a street outreach program, a new intake system to ensure that there is no “wrong door” for youth seeking support, more beds for youth in crisis, a publicly-funded Homeless Youth Census to be completed annually, and finally, a community-wide comprehensive plan to end youth homelessness.
The Youth Plan: Vision Statement and Benchmarks
With the groundwork laid by the 2014 legislation, the District now has the start of structures and supports needed to end youth homelessness. This goal does not mean that a youth will never experience housing instability or homelessness again. Rather, it means that our community will have a system in place to prevent homelessness for youth whenever possible, and if literal homelessness cannot be prevented, to ensure that the youth’s homelessness is brief and non-recurring, with access to stable housing within an average of 60 days or less.
This is vision statement for the Comprehensive Plan: By 2022, youth homelessness in the District will be a rare, brief, and nonrecurring experience.
For youth experiencing homelessness, their housing crisis comes at a key point in their development into independent adults. Recognizing this difference between youth and adults, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has developed core outcomes for youth that go beyond resolving the youth’s housing crisis to also helping them with building permanent connections, achieving education and employment goals, and developing social-emotional well-being. Addressing these core outcomes will require a community-wide effort with the involvement of partners in the District beyond the usual stakeholders in the homeless system.
The plan lays out specific benchmarks to assess progress toward the vision, including:
- Our community has ended chronic homelessness among youth;
- Our community has a system in place to identify all youth experiencing homelessness;
- Our community has the ability to provide immediate access to developmentally appropriate emergency shelter for any youth without a safe place to stay;
- Our community connects youth to stable housing as quickly as possible; and,
- Our community provides Transitional Housing only for youth that prefer it, and that Transitional Housing is stable, does not have barriers to entry, and has high rates of exit to permanent housing.
The ICH will be formally releasing the plan in early 2017. The plan will be published to include a series of short vignettes written by District youth experiencing homelessness, and there is also a contest underway for youth to determine a name for the plan.
The plan also lays out more than 40 key strategies which DC agencies and community partners will undertake in the coming years. The ICH’s youth subcommittee will continue meeting monthly in 2017 to work across youth-serving agencies, community-based organizations, local advocacy partners, and young people from the community to support the key strategy work. And as performance and budget hearings approach in the spring, DCAYA will be crafting an advocacy agenda in strong support of achieving the plan’s benchmarks.
To stay informed about the plan’s 2017 release and the title contest, or to find out more about the work of the ICH Youth Subcommittee and DCAYA’s advocacy, please contact Joseph Gavrilovich, Senior Policy Analyst.