Count Us In 2018 - A Response
By Mark Putnam, Executive Director, Accelerator YMCA
The data for Count Us In, All Home’s annual Point In Time homelessness count, has been released. Last year in my role as Executive Director for All Home, I led the count effort and have seen the importance of this data in driving awareness and action.
The number of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness increased from 1,498 in 2017 to 1,518 in 2018, and while it is clear there is much more work to do, the Y has implemented several innovative programs that are disrupting this trend in big ways.
We know that systemic failures have led to the high rates of youth homelessness, not individual failures. Take Eric* for example, who was removed from his home after experiencing domestic violence, only to be placed in twenty foster homes by the time he turned eighteen. Eric’s story is not uncommon, as 1 in 3 youth experiences homelessness within a year of aging out of foster care. In response, the Y partnered with Youth Villages (a national organization) to replicate an evidence-based program called YV LifeSet. This program offers intensive case management that supports youth aging out of foster care as they transition into adulthood. In 2017, 86% of young people served through YV LifeSet were stably housed one year post services.
We also know that housing costs are on the rise, and young people are particularly vulnerable to the barriers that come with finding safe and stable housing. Having enough money saved to pay the security deposit, rent, and moving costs present huge barriers to youth in search of housing, not to mention lack of credit and rental history. That’s why we launched Host Homes, a program that recruits community members with spare bedrooms who are willing to house a young person for up to 6 months while they stabilize and work toward long-term goals. Since the program’s inception, 83% of young people who exited this program have moved on to permanent housing. We have 15 host homes, with a goal of establishing 50 more within a year.
While the Count Us In data may be disheartening, I am working closely with my team at Accelerator Y to take steps that address the root causes of youth homelessness in ways that haven’t been done in our community. Beyond housing, the Y provides holistic support to young people including mental health, substance use, education, employment, and violence prevention services to eliminate hurdles on the path to success.
And we need your help in order to do more. Here are some ways you can make a difference:
• Become a host home or foster parent with the Y
• Hire or employ a young person experiencing homelessness or transitioning from foster care or the juvenile justice system
• Donate or volunteer to support our programs