When it comes to being counted, homeless youth are often the slipperiest of that slippery group of people known as “the homeless.”

It’s well known that most estimates of the homeless population are on the low end since their methodology is generally flawed. Some people avoid homeless countsand the Census and others are doubled up with friends orliving in weekly-rate hotels, where not even the Department of Housing and Urban Development considers them homeless.

When it comes to young people, sometimes they don’t want to be found because they’re runaways and would rather not be reunited with family members they fled. Sometimes the people doing the counting overlook teenagers and college students who have a knack for blending in with a society they’re actually locked out of.

But as the National Alliance to End Homelessness reminds us, we can’t solve youth homelessness until we get real about how big the problem is. This week the NAEH issued a brief to assist facilitators and volunteers of national Point in Time (PIT) homeless counts, scheduled to take place in January 2011.

“Too often, PIT counts fail to account for unaccompanied youth age 24 or under who are homeless,” the Alliance writes. “As a result, the extent of homelessness within communities is inaccurately portrayed and local plans to end homelessness neglect the needs of unaccompanied youth.”

Their steps to ensure that no one is left out: 1) make sure PIT counts include strategies for finding and enumerating homeless people age 24 and under by engaging youth and the organizations they rely on in planning, 2) map out locations where they’re likely to be found, including malls, rec centers, LGBT hot spots and more, 3) facilitate collection of count data, 4) analyze the data on youth homelessness and 5) use the enhanced PIT findings to educate the public and our elected representatives about the prevalence of youth homelessness (which might make the front page or the evening news faster than a story about homeless adults). For more tips, download the brief.

Photo credit: stuartpilbrow




October 23, 2010

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