All of us should cringe when we hear the words “youth” and “homelessness” joined together. No society, least of all ours, should tolerate a system which allows our young to be discarded, victimized or left to live on the streets.
At work, I think in best practices – how to fund, advocate, convene, collaborate, strategize. I speak in acronyms, numbers, and data. I look at root causes, systems, and solutions, not band-aids. I am committed to doing all I can to end and prevent homelessness. At the end of the day I know I love my job – and am left wishing I could do more.
At home, I’m the mother of a teenage boy – 15 going on 30, or 15 going on 6 – depending on the hour and the day. I live with teenage angst, with pimples and thoughts of girls, with computers and music that’s too loud. I agonize about grades, about futures, about him being the best person he can be. I laugh at how charming he can be and cry at how thoughtless. I am so proud – and so worried. But at the end of the day, I know he is safe, and he knows he is loved, secure in the love and the home we have created.
I think back to my work, and about those young men and women who are not safe, who are not secure in someone’s love or homes. I think about the children who are rejected, who suffer abuse and leave, whose parents cannot look after them. I think of them lost, alone, frightened – on the streets, where no young person should ever be. I know that an important part of our work is about doing everything we can to make sure that these children are no longer lost or alone and without a safe place to call home.
All of us should cringe when we hear the words “youth” and “homelessness” joined together. No society, least of all ours, should tolerate a system which allows our young to be discarded, victimized or left to live on the streets. All of us, especially those of us working in this sector, must do all we can to prevent this, and to end it when it does occur. We must end youth homelessness—but it isn’t easy, and there isn’t a simple solution. So where do we start?
While many communities have good programs that help young people, few have community-wide systems that are successful in preventing and ending youth homelessness. In order to create these systems we must first understand the issue and the young people affected. We need to find them, hear their stories, and understand who they are and why they’re in the situations they’re in. Only then can we look to building true community solutions.
Partnering To Help Our Youth – The Youth Point in Time Initiative
Funders Together was very excited when we were asked to partner with the Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Education (DOE) on a joint Youth Point-in-Time Initiativewhich is to be rolled out in nine communities across the country this winter. Funders Together worked with our federal partners to choose nine cities who would take part in this initiative: Washington State, Los Angeles, Houston, Winston-Salem, Boston, New York, Hennepin County, Cleveland, and King County, whose United Way took on the great task of administering the evaluation and all that it entailed.
This initiative was a first step in identifying, collecting, and evaluating data on homeless youth. By learning more about what initiatives and strategies these communities are involved in, we gain a better awareness of what will help us protect, nurture and embrace these youth and build a system which creates stability, safety and hope for the future.
Funders Together – Engaging Philanthropy
The success of this initiative has thrilled us—and it was philanthropy that made it possible. Through our member network we were able to connect with foundations and United Ways in each of these communities and to engage them around the Youth Point-in-Time count. In each of the nine cities, philanthropy stepped forward to fund the evaluation portion of the initiative, ensuring analysis of the results will be disseminated and used to help communities across the country begin to build effective systems to end youth homelessness. The report will be released this summer, and will be made available to all communities interested in doing something to help those youth without homes.
Next Steps – A Learning Community on Youth Homelessness
We know that data is vital, and we believe this successful initiative is a great first step. We also know that we need to continue collecting and exchanging information to help those interested in ending youth homelessness. We are pleased to announce that this spring Funders Together to End Homelessness will be launching a Learning Community for our members, and our first focus will be youth homelessness. As we bring together people from across the country working effectively in this area, we’ll learn about successful experiences and best practices. By presenting experts from our partner organizations such as the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Interagency Council on Homelessness, and various federal agencies, we’ll connect philanthropy to what is working, with opportunities for you to ask questions, share ideas, and connect with others around building an effective system in your community.
We must continue to create opportunities to build and strengthen effective systems around youth homelessness throughout the country. Together we can create communities that protect, nurture and keep our children safe and housed.
As Executive Director of Funders Together, Anne brings years of expertise in both the corporate and not-for-profit sector. She is passionate about promoting the philanthropic community’s catalytic role in ending homelessness, working with government to create public-private partnerships, and advocating for funding and policies which end, rather than manage, homelessness. Find her at @FTEHAM.
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