HUD Should Implement New Strategies to Increase Youth-Appropriate Housing Opportunities for Homeless Youth
While the focus on chronic and veteran homelessness is vital, and working to meet the goal to end chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015 is laudable, HUD has not yet offered housing opportunities to youth facing a future of chronic homelessness. Less than 1% of all federal funding for affordable housing is targeted to vulnerable, homeless youth ($44 million out of $38 billion). In 2012, 633,782 people were counted as homeless by HUD. Over 46,000 youth were counted in 2013–which represents over 7 percent of the homeless population captured in the count. HUD must begin to ensure that its grants are appropriately distributed to all populations experiencing homelessness. Programs offering youth-focused shelter, services, and supportive housing are the last barrier standing between a youth in crisis and homelessness, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, victimization, criminal justice involvement, chronic homelessness, and death.Through the Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA), HUD incentivizes funding particular housing interventions and services. While it is up to each Continuum of Care (CoC) to identify the funding priorities in its community, HUD’s NOFA establishes the funding criteria for a two-year period and creates funding priorities based on the points assigned (or not given) to the various housing models included in the application. To date, homeless youth providers have not been assigned an elevated point value in a NOFA; this leaves CoCs with no incentive to include youth providers in their application.
The most recent NOFA, for 2013 and 2014, continued its trend to both reward good performance and prioritize achieving goals of ending homelessness among varied populations. Based on this method, two factors have a significant impact on what funding requests are included in the NOFA to HUD: 1) what HUD considers to be “good performance” and 2) the staggered goals to end the four categories of homelessness enumerated in Opening Doors, the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness.
Given their vulnerability and incidence, HUD should incentivize funding youth-appropriate housing and services for homeless youth (both minors and 18 to 24 year olds) through the NOFA. Also, to increase youth programs integration into local CoCs, youth programs performance should be based on youth specific outcome measures.
Outcome measures should be tailored to account for the uniqueness of an unaccompanied homeless youth who: (1) are still developing—they are adults-in-progress; (2) enter into homeless with little or no work experience; (3) are limited in their educational attainment due to homelessness; (4) experience high levels of criminal victimization, including human trafficking and sexual exploitation; (5) often enter into homelessness without life skills such as cooking, money management and job searching; and (6) face many challenges as a minor when trying to access support and services because they have limited rights.