Members of Foundations for Youth Success (FYS) gathered in Minneapolis April 7th and 8th to learn about the inspiring work happening in the state to end youth homelessness. In this second post in our series, Casey Trupin of the Raikes Foundation reflects on how the convening strengthened his understanding of philanthropy's role in preventing and ending youth homelessness.
Foundations for Youth Success (FYS) brings together philanthropic leaders -- large, national funders as well as those working at the community level -- in a Community of Practice that is focused on funders' roles in identifying best practices and implementing effective solutions for our young people. Throughout this two year initiative, members participate in regular virtual meetings and come together in person twice per year.
I have been working on youth homelessness for decades, but I am brand new to my role as a funder in this area. The Foundations for Youth Success (FYS) convening in Minneapolis in April helped me develop a much stronger perspective of how the Raikes Foundation and philanthropy in general can help those working with systems address youth homelessness, from government to service providers to youth and parents.
As a state, Minnesota has made a commitment to ending unaccompanied youth homelessness by 2020. The sense was inescapable that those who had rallied around this goal—government, providers, researchers, advocates, business and funders – were serious about accomplishing it. As FYS members, we heard clearly that there was an identified role for all players, and that funders needed to do more than just cut checks.
- State and county government can and should play a significant role. Minnesota’s plan, which included ending homelessness for unaccompanied minors and young parents by the end of next year, had very specific commitments from six government agencies. Notably, it recognized what advocates in most states are saying: that the child welfare system has to have the capacity to serve youth ages 15-17 who are without parental support. The government leaders we heard from were clear: philanthropy should help them do their jobs by supporting organizations that advocate for homeless youth.
- Youth homelessness is costly. During our trip, Foldes Consulting, working with local provider, YouthLink, released a groundbreaking study about the costs of youth homelessness. The study found that the average youth served by YouthLink who fails to secure financial self-sufficiency will impose a lifetime financial and social cost of over $860,000. Given the high costs of youth homelessness, even a marginal success rate for an intervention would be a good financial investment, not to mention an important moral one.
- We must work alongside youth and respond to systemic inequities. Throughout the visit, our hosts, speakers, and fellow funders remarked on the important work of working to elevate youth as leaders in the movement, of respecting their knowledge of what worked and failed for them, and of what needs to change. There is now broad consensus that our work will not be successful if we do not support youth in their efforts to change the system, and if we do not recognize the powerful historical forces that have caused vast racial disparities that are a constant theme in this movement.
Ultimately, Minnesota is setting an example for the rest of the nation by setting meaningful goals, through government leaders making commitments, and through coordinated philanthropic efforts. All told, the visit instilled a balance of hope and replicable actions – two things necessary for all the stakeholders working to end youth homelessness.
Casey Trupin is a program officer for the Raikes Foundation's youth homelessness strategy. He has represented thousands of foster youth and homeless adults in litigation and worked on state and federal legislation designed to improve services to low-income children, youth and adults.