On September 22, 2021, community advocates from across the country joined NN4Y for a listening session to inform our comments to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) as they seek input on the new Federal Plan to End Homelessness in America. 

Research has found that homelessness among young people is a fluid experience. From couch surfing to sleeping on the streets or in a shelter, the vast majority of youth do not become homeless by choice. 

For youth experiencing homelessness, the climb to adulthood can be particularly steep. Youth and young adults need support to find their footing. As young people in homeless situations become adults, they need assistance to access networks of support that power their growth and success.

Learn more about youth and young adults at higher risk for homelessness.

We urge USICH to focus on both prevention and response solutions for all people who experience homelessness, and in particular for youth and young adults. These are the most significant barriers that communities identified when working to end youth homelessness:

  • Multiple federal definitions of homelessness; as a result, financial resources for communities cannot meet the needs of youth and young adults. Aligning definitions of homelessness is a necessary first step. We cannot identify the scope of what’s needed nor direct funding appropriately without looking at all of the forms of homelessness youth and young adults experience. Read more about defining youth homelessness. 
  • Outcome measures from adult-centric programs are not appropriate for youth.  For example, HUD should replace the current measures for youth-serving programs with measures that fall within the four USICH pillars developed under the Obama administration:  (1) social and emotional well-being; (2) permanent connections; (3) increased education or employment; and (4) stable housing. 
  • Youth experiencing homelessness need more than housing. Young people need case management and access to education, employment programs, mental health, and other services.  There is a lack of access to comprehensive health care and behavioral health care, including medical, dental, vision, mental health, and substance use disorder care for youth experiencing homelessness.  
  • Unaccompanied minors (those under the age of 18) experience many barriers in accessing the help they need because they have few legal rights and due to a lack of funding and strategy, communities lack housing and service options for them. 
  • There is a large overlap between previous child welfare and legal system involvement among youth experiencing homelessness.  These systems do little to resolve the true needs: safety, stability, healing, and connections to caring adults. These systems must be required to ensure youth who encounter these systems are provided with safe and stable housing options and access to supportive services. 

Read the full report to see a complete list of barriers.

Our top recommendations for the New Strategic Plan to End Homelessness includes:

  • Establish housing as a human right for all, including young people.
  • Significant investments in preventing and responding to homelessness experienced by youth and young adults. Youth experiencing homelessness have unique needs. Rather than addressing youth homelessness as a sub-bullet in our national response with a primary focus on housing, we propose a holistic and whole-person approach. 
  • Address the very real issue of disparate definitions of homelessness and eligibility criteria of programs, these disparities most significantly exclude youth and families. 
  • HUD should leverage their considerable housing resources to provide young people with housing vouchers that include funding for supportive services. 

Read our full report to see our complete list of recommendations, including:

  • Ways in which the federal government can more effectively center racial equity and support equitable access and outcomes at the local level.
  • The need for equitable funding for the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act program as it is the sole federal funding explicitly targeted to provide housing options to minors and young adults experiencing homelessness. 
  • Raise the minimum wage on a national level so more people can afford basic life needs such as food and housing based on their salaries.  
  • Institute rental protections so that rental costs don’t increase as wages increase.  
  • USICH and the Biden-Harris administration should work to ensure the passage of the Equality Act.  

December 2, 2021

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