United States Interagency Council on Homelessness - No on should experience homelessness. No one should be without a safe, stable place to call home.
August 1, 2013

Counting the 'Invisible Population'

The number of young people who experience homelessness each year is largely unknown. Often called an "invisible population," young people who are homeless tend to stay with friends, avoid adult services, and dodge authorities, which makes it difficult for communities to include them in their annual point-in-time counts and to engage them in services. 

Why We Count: Homeless Youth in America
YouthCount! video from Urban Institue

To improve the national response to youth homelessness, policymakers need better data on the magnitude of the problem. As a result, The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Health and Human Services, and Education launched YouthCount! in 2012. The initiative engaged nine local communities to document their promising strategies for counting youth through HUD's 2013 point-in-time count. 


This week, Urban Institute released the results of their process study of the initiative. The study shares promising practices that could be adapted and taken to scale to produce credible and useful data nationwide. 

Counting youth can provide communities an opportunity to work across agencies, building a foundation for more coordinated services, and seeding a community-wide approach to serving youth who are homeless. For example, Megan Gibbard, the Homeless Youth and Young Adult Project Manager for King County Housing and Community Development, said during Tuesday's event that her agency's efforts to count youth have resulted in new partnerships with the libraries and parks and recreation.


Read more about YouthCount! 


How Do We End Youth Homelessness?


A Message to Continuum of Care & Ten-Year Plan Leaders from Barbara Poppe 


Recently, I wrote about the urgency to increase our efforts to end chronic and family homelessness, suggesting key questions Continuums of Care and Ten Year Plan leaders should ask. Today I want to pose similar questions related to how we address youth homelessness. To reach our goal of ending youth homelessness by the year 2020, we must realign our programs and systems now. 

As part of the development of Opening Doors, USICH sponsored a working group on youth homelessness (age 12-24) to develop strategies that would advance our goal to end youth homelessness. One member of the group was Sharayna, a young woman with direct experience of youth homelessness. She said,
"In all of my time suffering abuse and living on the streets, I felt like there wasn't a single adult who cared about me. After being able to join advocacy groups and having opportunities to share my experiences and ideas about homelessness with government officials, I have felt literally overwhelmed. I now see that a whole mass of adults in my community and my government are working to help youth like me, and that there are adults who really care." 

We also heard from advocates at the national, state, and local level who described youth living unsheltered due to lack of crisis bed capacity, youth trading sex for shelter in order to survive, the long term impact of trauma due to homelessness, sexual and physical abuse, and being kicked out by parents who rejected them for coming out. 


Read the entire message


USDA Clarifies SNAP Eligibility for Homeless Youth
In May, the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued an important policy clarification about the eligibility of youth who are homeless for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often called food stamps. The guidance emphasizes that youth do not need to produce photo IDs to qualify, do not need to have a permanent address, and can apply by themselves, regardless of their age if they are not living with their parents. The USDA has also published a helpful Question and Answer document explaining eligibility for people experiencing homelessness, reinforcing these points. 

The document clarifies that someone living in a shelter or residential program that provides food can still be eligible for SNAP. Food security is crucial for all vulnerable populations and is essential for everyone experiencing homelessness. In addition, since states expanding Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act may use SNAP eligibility to establish Medicaid eligibility, dispelling myths about limits on SNAP eligibility for people experiencing homelessness is timely and critically important now.
How to Help 'Super-Utilizers' of Medicaid Services

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released a new information bulletin highlighting innovative programs for Medicaid "super-utilizers"-beneficiaries with complex, unaddressed health issues and a history of frequent encounters with expensive health care services. Research that there is significant overlap between people experiencing chronic homelessness and Medicaid super-utilizers, and the evidence is clear that permanent supportive housing can be a solution to reducing hospitalization and emergency department visits among this population. 


The bulletin provides useful information on targeting strategies and care management models that can benefit super utilizers who are experiencing chronic homelessness. Linking these efforts can help bend the curve on Medicaid costs and chronic homelessness.

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Homeless Gay and Transgender Youth Count! 



A growing body of research suggests that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth make up to 40 percent of the homeless youth population in the United States, yet only up to five percent of the general youth population. While reasons for their homelessness vary, the most frequently cited cause is family rejection based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.


During an NAEH pre-conference session, federal policymakers, youth service providers, and youth advocates discussed Federal approaches to ending youth homelessness. 






One possible tool communities could use along with the PIT to get better numbers is the Youth Risk Behavior Survey.


HUD this week issued guidance on expanding access to Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance through owner-adopted preferences for households that are homeless and exiting shelter.

In addition, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing Sandra B. Henriquez recently issued a letter encouraging Public Housing Authorities leaders to read
Notice PIH 2013-2015 and use it in their planning efforts with their partners.


HUD provides funds over 400 new local homeless programs across the U.S.
View a complete list of
all the state and local homeless projects
awarded funding.
Leveraging Mainstream Services Funding discusses the need for communities to leverage mainstream resources while implementing their homeless assistance programs.
Why Coordinated Assessment is Critical to Ending Homelessness Locally addresses why CoCs should prioritize chronically homeless persons in permanent supportive housing.

DON'T MISS: Essential SSVF Resources


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