Improving Our Understanding of Youth Experiencing Homelessness
HUD and its federal partners have agreed to establish 2017 as the baseline year for measuring progress in ending youth homelessness in the context of the Point-in-Time (PIT) count.
How many homeless youth are there? HUD has been working with its federal partners, including the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the U.S. Department of Education (ED), to better understand how many youth experience homelessness nationally and how best to support communities to identify and serve youth locally. HUD and its partners are leveraging existing data sources, supporting new data collection efforts, and sharing emerging practices. Our best answer to how many youth experience homelessness so far has been that no single source of data provides the full picture – but that there are a few key data sources that are extremely helpful. These data sources include:
- PIT count and Housing Inventory Count (HIC) data,
- Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) data (note that in June 2016, ED began releasing student enrollment and demographic data at the local education agency (LEA) level and this data can be accessed on the EDFacts page),
- Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) data,
- Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) administrative data, and
- American Community Survey (ACS) data.
Each of these data sources provides unique insights into how many youth experience homelessness and each has its advantages and disadvantages. We anticipate more resources to come, including recommendations on counting youth from Chapin Hall’s Voices of Youth Count effort.
In the last two years, communities have increased their efforts to identify youth experiencing homelessness in their PIT counts. We commend you for your efforts. HUD and its federal partners have agreed to establish 2017 as the baseline year for measuring progress in ending youth homelessness in the context of the PIT count. This means that, as HUD measures national and local progress on ending youth homelessness with the PIT count, it will generally use 2017 as the initial comparison year. It is critical that communities ensure this count is as accurate as possible to be able to fully demonstrate their progress on ending homelessness among youth in 2018 and beyond. While the PIT count data is a critical resource for measuring progress, HUD and its federal partners will use the PIT count data together with other data to understand progress towards ending youth homelessness.
To help communities conduct the most accurate count of youth experiencing homeless possible, we will publish various resources in the coming months, including a crosswalk of Continuums of Care (CoCs), Runaway and Homeless Youth providers, and education liaisons, updated model surveys with youth-specific recommendations, and a best practices document based on efforts across the country.
Data is an essential tool for communities seeking to prevent and end homelessness. Just as HUD intends to use the 2017 PIT count data to inform national policies, we encourage communities to use the PIT count data – and other data on youth experiencing homelessness in your communities – to improve how you serve youth in your communities. We need to learn all we can about this vulnerable population and provide the necessary housing and services to end their homelessness. Our efforts will give us more confidence in the data we collect and in our ability to act effectively. Let’s focus on using the data to do more and work towards preventing and ending youth homelessness.