No young person should lack a stable and safe home, or be without a caring adult they can count on. Too many of America’s youth have been robbed of that essential foundation — and thanks to the extraordinary work of practitioners and volunteers across the country, we are learning what it takes to reestablish that footing and end youth homelessness nationwide.
In 2012, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) issued the Framework to End Youth Homelessness detailing the steps necessary to achieve the goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020, and strategies to improve outcomes for children and youth experiencing homelessness. This framework articulates the need for government, non-profit, civic, and faith community partners to focus together on the overall well-being of youth experiencing homelessness — addressing not just their need for stable housing, but also their educational and employment goals, and the importance of permanent adult connections in their lives.
It’s clear that success in those ambitious goals requires better data on youth experiencing unaccompanied homelessness, stronger capacity in the systems and organizations serving youth directly, and clearer evidence on what works. To advance those efforts, last week we welcomed youth, service providers, advocates, policymakers, and researchers to the White House on 40 to None Day, for an afternoon of discussions on the strongest approaches for serving youth in need, and the path forward, leveraging better data and evidence and strengthening our partnerships to end youth homelessness.
During the discussion, Roy Austin, the Deputy Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity, reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment to creating opportunities for all youth, and Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer, described the potential for emerging technology and data to make unforeseen gains possible. Cyndi Lauper, co-founder of the True Colors Fund, shared her personal connection to ending youth homelessness, particularly for LGBTQ youth who disproportionately experience unaccompanied homelessness; some studies conclude that as many of 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ.
Some of the afternoon’s strongest direction was provided by young people who had personal experience with homelessness. They took the stage to share those stories and their insights on what is working now, and what more government and community partners can do to meet youth needs.
As 24-year-old Violet Banks explained the importance of having youth at the table, “[W]e humanize a situation that kind of seems distant to a lot of people…Having us there, it brings a lot of truth where is there is a lot of darkness, where there’s a lot of assumption.” America’s young people deserve to know that if they experience a crisis, their community hears them, understands them, and will invest in them.
Last week’s gathering showed that more communities across the country are building that understanding and capacity, and will lead the charge to end youth homelessness in America.