The National Network for Youth (NN4Y) has been a public education and policy advocacy organization dedicated to the prevention and eradication of youth homelessness in America for over 40 years. As the largest and most diverse network of its kind, NN4Y mobilizes over 300 members and affiliates –organizations that work on the front lines every day to provide prevention services and respond to runaways and youth experiencing homelessness and human trafficking.
NN4Y pursues collaborative strategies to decrease the number of youth who experience homelessness in the United States. In doing so, we protect young people from:
- Criminal justice system ensnarement
- Victimization, exploitation and trafficking
- Chronic adult homelessness
- Untreated physical and mental illnesses
- Premature death
This requires a multidimensional, collaborative approach among government agencies, community organizations, the private sector and young people themselves. NN4Y creates and strengthens these relationships to facilitate a seamless, effective and comprehensive systems response to youth homelessness.
Partnering to Improve Outcomes for Young People
Our work is predicated on robust partnerships with:
- Youth experiencing homelessness. In 2014, NN4Y launched a National Youth Advisory Council (NYAC) comprised of young people who have overcome homelessness.
- Communities serving youth. Through our members, we are connected to over 100 communities who are seeking to prevent and reduce youth
- The federal government. Members of Congress and federal officials work with NN4Y to amend policies that fail to effectively address youth homelessness.
- Advocacy organizations. We partner with state and national policy advocacy organizations to promote the exchange of ideas, priorities and policy
We partner with our members, who are largely youth service provider agencies, and youth who have experienced homelessness to identify policies and systems that need to change. Together, we craft solutions so that youth in crisis have access to what they need to survive, stabilize and thrive. NN4Y targets policies that can be amended, updated or otherwise enhanced to create effective solutions to youth homelessness in every community.
Promoting Best Practices
One of our primary functions is to identify innovative and effective strategies to combat youth homelessness through our connections to organizations and young leaders. We study, document and elevate these approaches so that other communities may achieve comparably favorable outcomes. Additionally, this knowledge informs our policy work and the recommendations we make.
NN4Y disseminates information to support and advance the youth homelessness movement. Our public education efforts raise awareness, build partnerships, mobilize advocates and generate support for youth experiencing homelessness. We engage and educate partners, members, policymakers and the public through public events, various publications, social media and webinars.
During my 20 years (so far!) of serving “runaway” and homeless youth, I have watched providers strive to bring the best services to our communities, even as the need continues to grow while funding does not. We know that youth and young adults with housing instability are also experiencing other struggles, and are impacted by systems such as juvenile justice, foster care, and educational institutions, forcing us to become more nimble as we strive to serve the whole youth, and not just their homelessness. We have had to become more creative in providing the same level of exceptional services, even while funding levels remain the same as they were over 10 years ago.
It isn’t all about the money; as federal entities enact policies, decide to end or change programs, or even redefine who can be served, we need a voice at those tables—a voice that ensures that these are informed decisions. We need an advocate that is tasked with seeing the bigger picture—to see how these various federal agencies and programs interact, especially when they are at odds with each other, which forces providers to make unnecessary choices in which services they offer. NN4Y is that voice. NN4Y is OUR voice. Only through our participation and support can they continue to educate, advocate, and hold these decision-makers accountable to the young people we serve.