The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) just held their final meeting for the year, a meeting whose focus was youth homelessness. The USUCH website documents that meeting and notes the disproportionate number of LGBT youth among that number.
The [Interagency] Group [on Youth] spoke to the full Council on what we know (and do not know) about youth homelessness currently and federal resources available to serve this population. The Group also spoke about the challenges of serving this population – notably the lack of consistent data available on the number of unaccompanied youth and research on the practices that help this population. We do know, however, that there are sub-populations of youth that have a much higher risk for homelessness: youth exiting child welfare or the juvenile justice system and LGBT youth. At the meeting, all of the member agencies agreed to work together to marshal appropriate resources to improve our knowledge and achieve the goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020. Collaboration will have to be at the forefront of our work at all levels of government and with service providers currently serving this vulnerable population in order to ensure that we have a better understanding of the size of the problem, the needs of different sub-groups, that successful strategies are implemented and progress is made.
This is welcome news! If the goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020 is to be achievable then this is the sort of approach needed. Each subgroup of the homeless population has different needs, and LGBT youth comprise a disturbingly large percentage of the youth homeless population. Jerome Hunts recently took note of this in a recent guest post on ThinkProgress:
Indeed, a recent report by the National Center on Family Homelessness estimated that 1.6 million children lived on the street, in homeless shelters, with other families or in motels last year and that youth homelessness has risen 38 percent during the economic recession. Considering that an estimated 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth population is LGBT, this commitment by the USICH to work collaboratively across government and with the non-profit sector to help these sub-populations is definitely welcomed — particularly in the wake of a survey conducted by the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA) of close to 500 homelessness youth that resulted in 6 percent (or 19 people) of the respondents identifying as LGBT. (DCAYA believes this was due to the low number of participating sites that provide specific services to LGBT youth.)
While more data must be collected the USICH have both acknowledged this demographic’s high risk for homelessness and confirmed their commitment to addressing the problem.
With any luck the Interagency Group on Youth will bring some concrete plans and specifics to the USICH that will help us along towards making the 2020 goal a reality.