On November 19th, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released Part I of its Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR). It loosely asserts that over 36,000 unaccompanied youth were homeless in January 2015.
In part, the AHAR is comprised of data collected at the community level using HUD’s Point-in-Time (PIT) count. While many participating communities include all forms of youth homelessness in their submissions, HUD is only required by law to publish the total number of persons who sleep in places unfit for human habitation or are sheltered in emergency shelters, transitional housing and Safe Havens. In turn, it fails to acknowledge youth who temporarily and unstably stay with acquaintances or unfamiliar people. These young people – who can lose a couch or floor to sleep on at any time – are also homeless.
On account of this policy restriction, the AHAR fails to depict the full extent of homelessness in general, and youth homelessness in particular. We recommend that future reports include all young people identified by community PIT counts, including those who reside briefly and unstably with others. As a result, policymakers and the public would have access to a more complete picture of homelessness in America. This revision is only possible through legislation, which is one of many reasons why the National Network for Youth endorses the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HCYA). Read our full statement of support here.
Not all federal agencies are bound to the same requirements and limitations as HUD. For instance, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) address youth homelessness on the basis of a broader, more complete definition of homelessness. Accordingly, these agencies administer programs and policies that identify, document and serve all children, youth and families affected by homelessness. In addition to amending HUD policy, Congress should bolster these programs which address homelessness in America using a comprehensive approach.
If Congress fails to act, youth in crisis will continue to be turned away from housing each and every day due to insufficient space. However, additional federal investments could prevent these individuals from joining the next generation of chronically homeless adults. In conjunction with the recommendations above, NN4Y urges Congress to invest $165 million toward the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA) program.
Finally, NN4Y strongly supports $115 in federal funding toward the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program. In the 2013-2014 school year, the Department of Education identified nearly 1.3 million homeless children, including over 88,000 unaccompanied homeless youth. Moreover, it reported an increase of 100% in child and youth homelessness since the 2007-2008 economic recession. These statistics indicate that McKinney-Vento funding is currently insufficient to reverse homelessness.
Americans are paying closer attention to youth homelessness than ever before, and they deserve access to the most accurate information. As it stands, HUD’s PIT count is an incomplete assessment of national progress toward solving this epidemic. Accordingly, NN4Y supports higher standards of data collection and analysis on behalf of the federal government – namely the inclusion of all persons experiencing homelessness. Moreover, we urge every community, policymaker and federal agency to enact more comprehensive, and collaborative approaches to prevent and eradicate youth homelessness.