Our guest blogger is Jerome Hunt, a Research Associate for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress.
Youth homeless was one of the main focuses last week as the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) held their final meeting for the year. The USICH was briefed on the work being done by the Interagency Group on Youth, a collation of representatives from a variety of government agencies including the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Education, Labor, Justice, and the White House Domestic Policy Council. The group presented findings from its series of meetings with federal and state experts from the education, child welfare, housing, and juvenile justice sectors.
The Interagency Group on Youth acknowledged that certain sub-populations of youth — LGBT youth and youth exiting child welfare or the juvenile justice system — are at much higher risk for homelessness and pledged to collaboratively work together and “with service providers currently serving this vulnerable population to ensure that we have a better understanding of the size of the problem, the needs of different sub-groups, that successful strategies are implemented and progress is made.”
Indeed, a recent report by the National Center on Family Homelessness estimated that 1.6 million children lived on the street, in homeless shelters, with other families or in motels last year and that youth homelessness has risen 38 percent during the economic recession. Considering that an estimated 20 to 40 percent of homeless youth population is LGBT, this commitment by the USICH to work collaboratively across government and with the non-profit sector to help these sub-populations is definitely welcomed — particularly in the wake of a survey conducted by the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA) of close to 500 homelessness youth that resulted in 6 percent (or 19 people) of the respondents identifying as LGBT. (DCAYA believes this was due to the low number of participating sites that provide specific services to LGBT youth.)
Much work needs to be done to address the issues of youth homelessness, particularly LGBT youth homeless in this country. More programs need to provide specific services to the LGBT community, train staffs who may encounter LGBT youth, and collect more data about this population. Nevertheless, USICH acknowledgment that LGBT youth are a population at high risk for homelessness and commitment to addressing the issue is a major step in the right direction. Hopefully in 2012, the Interagency Group on Youth will bring some specific plans to the USICH that will help thousands of LGBT youth to no longer call the streets home.