Urban Institute Panel Explores Lessons Learned from Youth Count!

Youth advocates convened recently at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC, to discuss lessons learned from Youth Count!, a federal interagency project seeking to improve the ways communities count young people experiencing homelessness.

The initiative, which included nine pilot sites across the country, is led jointly by the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and the US Department of Education (ED), Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), and Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD).

“Family and youth workers know how difficult it can be to identify homeless young people who are actively trying to stay hidden,” said Resa Matthew, director of the Division of Adolescent Development and Support at FYSB. “But finding these youth and hearing their stories can be incredibly useful for making informed decisions that better meet their needs.”

About 60 people attended the July 30 panel, which included the deputy director of USICH and two researchers involved in the process study. The panel also featured Megan Gibbard from King County, Washington, one of the initiative’s nine pilot sites. Gibbard shared some of the challenges of running a youth-focused count at the same time as HUD’s broader Point-in-Time count geared toward adults and families. Scheduling counts for the middle of the night may be a good strategy for finding homeless adults, for example, but it is less effective for locating youth.

Other recommendations include:

  • Standardizing the questions used to collect information about youth experiencing homelessness so different locations can better compare their results
  • Adjusting survey questions to use youth-friendly language, such as asking a young person where they sleep at night versus whether or not they are homeless
  • Identifying new ways to reach young people not already known to local service providers
  • Incorporating questions about youth homelessness into existing household surveys like the American Community Survey
  • Giving organizations more flexibility in how they can administer the youth count

Watch part 1, part 2 and part 3 of the presentation. You can also read the Urban Institute report (PDF, 1837KB), or watch a short video explaining why it's important to count youth experiencing homelessness.