Ending youth homelessness is possible if we work together and learn from each other.
Homelessness is more than a lack of a place to sleep tonight. For a young person, it means instability, fear, and often an inability to properly learn and prepare for adulthood. Increasingly, people who work with vulnerable youth are realizing that the lack of a safe and stable home makes it difficult for any other youth-focused program to be successful.
Over the past decade, we have made significant progress is ending and preventing homelessness among adult populations. We have seen reductions in chronic and veteran homeless populations and some promising results around solutions to family homelessness. In many instances, philanthropy has been a catalyst for change at the local and national levels.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for youth homelessness. While we increasingly recognize the problem, we lack adequate data and research on the scope of the problem and effective solutions. The approach at both the community and national levels continues to be inconsistent, lacking in coordination, and rarely evidence-based. And philanthropy must help catalyze the necessary change.
- At least 1.7 million children under the age of 18 experience homelessness in a year.
- Up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT.
- Public schools have reported a 41% increase in homeless youth, especially youth of color, over the past two years.
- 24-36% of youth who have aged out of foster care will experience homelessness before they are 26 years old.
- Private philanthropy invests roughly $4.2 billion in youth programs each year but our systems are yet not connected in a way that ensures youth and young adults have access to the services they need.
Through Foundations for Youth Success (FYS), Funders Together to End Homelessness will bring 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 will participate in regular virtual meetings and come together in person twice per year.
Katie Hong from the Raikes Foundation said it best in her blog:
This is the right time and moment to address youth homelessness. The “window of opportunity” to focus on youth homelessness is now. Nationally, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness officially adopted the goal to end youth homelessness by 2020. There are efforts in multiple states including Washington, Minnesota and Maryland to strategically address youth homelessness. And at the local level, many communities and funders are increasing their efforts to end youth and family homelessness as they make progress on reducing chronic adult and veteran homelessness. This means that as funders get smarter about what strategies are effective for homeless youth, there is an increasingly receptive audience to implement solutions.
Funders—especially private funders—are uniquely positioned to play a catalytic role. There is so much you can do—whether it’s convening a diverse stakeholder group across multiple systems or using your voice to highlight and elevate the issue of youth homelessness. Private funders bring flexible dollars to the table, which can fund innovative demonstration projects. You can uniquely support projects that public funders don’t prioritize, including efforts in research and evaluation, agency or system level capacity building, and/or pilot projects. Foundations for Youth Success effort is a great venue for trading ideas and learning what has worked in different parts of the country.
- This is an opportunity for us to learn faster and more effectively together. Many communities face common challenges. Big questions, like: What are effective prevention strategies? How can we make youth homelessness rarer by working with child welfare or school systems? What can we do to make youth homelessness brief? What are innovative and appropriate sets of housing options that are most effective for youth and young adults? What about education and employment? How can we incentivize and better connect diverse players such as employers, schools and other support service providers to better serve youth who have experienced homelessness?