The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is conducting their 2017 annual Point-in-Time (PIT) count this January. HUD has declared 2017 as the baseline year for youth and young adult homelessness but what does that mean for young people and the programs serving them?  According to HUD, 2017 will be the year that sets the mark by which we compare all years in the future to determine how communities are progressing as they implement strategies and increased resources to end youth homelessness. This year will also be the first mandatory year since the 2015 count when communities first started really attempting to count youth as part of the PIT count.

A group of young people

A group of young people

Although 2017 will be considered a baseline year, the National Network for Youth strongly believes that communities must continue to improve their collection of accurate counts in years moving forward. What does that look like on the ground? It means that hopefully in 2018 and 2019 the numbers of youth and young adults (YYA) counted and reported to HUD’s Continuums of Care will continue to increase. Why do we have this hope? Because we know that right now, not every CoC has youth or young adult specific housing options and services.  Without this expertise, it is difficult for a community to find and document the number of young people who are experiencing homelessness during a PIT count.  Ultimately, we want every CoC to have a YYA specific strategy with YYA specific housing options and services.An accurate count  allows many CoCs to begin to  understand the true scope and needs of their community’s population of YYA experiencing homelessness .

Communities need to know that HUD will not view them unfavorably if they report higher numbers of YYA experiencing homelessness after 2017 and that their funding will not be in jeopardy as a result. We urge HUD to issue clear  guidance to  CoCs that even though 2017 is the baseline year, they understand and encourage communities to report increased numbers in years to come. HUD needs to assure communities who have not yet, or only recently, begun to address YYA homelessness, that future increases in documented numbers of young people experiencing homelessness is a result of increased community collaboration and planning, which is what is needed on the ground to comprehensively respond to and prevent youth homelessness.

It is imperative that communities continue to increase the accuracy of the data showing young people experiencing homelessness in order for policymakers to understand the pervasiveness of the challenge. Communities should be encouraged to use a broader definition of youth being counted. Although young people temporarily staying with others and those who are couch surfing cannot be included in the CoC numbers reported to HUD, they are extremely useful for local and state advocacy purposes. We encourage you to write your own prevalence reports to use in local and state advocacy that shows the full extent of YYA experiencing homelessness in your community, not just those numbers reported to HUD.

There are a number of states and local communities who have done their own youth counts in order to demonstrate to community partners, state policymakers, philanthropy and other  stakeholders  what is needed to serve all young people experiencing homelessness in their community. In fact, Texas passed a law which required a youth specific study to be conducted between October 2015 and March of 2016. This was significant as it shows that states can recognize they cannot rely solely on the federal government for funding and resources. Additionally, it is worth noting that communities should use their district’s education numbers in local advocacy in order to show policymakers the need for a YYA specific count falling outside HUD’s regulatorily required time and with a more inclusive definition.

Young people and youth service providers need to be heavily involved in planning and activities for this upcoming count. NN4Y has put together a list of resources to help you get and stay involved!

 

PIT Count Resources for YYA:

HUD General PIT Guides and Tools www.hudexchange.info/programs/hdx/guides/pit-hic/#general-pit-guides-and-tools
National Network for Youth  

Blog: How Did We Count? Lessons on Youth Inclusion from California’s 2015 PIT Counts

www.nn4youth.org/blog-post/2016/01/19/how-did-we-count-lessons-on-youth-inclusion-from-californias-2015-pit-counts
Voices of Youth Count (VoYC) Voices of Youth Count Toolkit

Note: If you are conducting a youth count during your annual HUD Point-in-Time, you will need to modify the VoYC Survey tool because it does not collect all of the information that HUD requires to be reported.

voicesofyouthcount.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Voices-of-Youth-Count-Toolkit-FINAL.pdf
WeCount! California Best practices and lessons learned from California directly (full report) cahomelessyouth.library.ca.gov/docs/pdf/WeCountCalifFinal.pdf
True Colors Fund Youth Count Toolkit

Particular focus on SO/GI data elements and collection.

network.truecolorsfund.org/youth-count-toolkit/

Network Live! Re: Using the Toolkit:

network.truecolorsfund.org/2016/10/network-live-2017-pit-youth-count-presentation/

National Alliance to End Homelessness Prepare for the 2017 Youth PIT Count Webinar – 11/2 (NAEH & VoYC) www.endhomelessness.org/news/calendar/counting-youth-in-the-2017-unsheltered-pit-count