The Western PA CoC has established a Youth Homelessness Committee to spearhead the CoC’s work to prevent and end homelessness among youth and young adults (unaccompanied and parenting youth ages 12 to 24) in the region.
About Youth Homelessness in the Western PA CoC
Youth homelessness is a pressing issue in Western Pennsylvania, affecting a wide range of youth with differing experiences and needs. Through the 2017 Point -In-Time Count (the “PIT” is an annual census of homelessness taken on a single night in January each year), the Western PA CoC identified 49 unaccompanied youth (under 25 years old) and 15 parenting youth with 21 children. The PIT Count offers a snapshot of homelessness on one day, so we know that it is likely that many more youth and young adults will experience homelessness in the Western PA CoC region over the course of the year. Also, those counted through the PIT are those youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness according to the definitions laid out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. As a result, the PIT numbers do not include youth who are couch surfing, living in motels, trading favors for a place to stay or experiencing other forms of housing instability.
Another source of data is the Pennsylvania Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness program. The data gathered through that program show that 2,417 children experienced homelessness throughout the Western PA CoC during the 2015-16 school year. This data includes children and youth who are unaccompanied by families and those who are homeless with their families.
While we work to improve data on youth homelessness in the Western PA CoC, we know from these existing data sources that far too many youth and young adults experience homelessness and housing instability each year in our region. Many do not consider themselves to be “homeless” and studies show that many youth without a stable place to call home are more likely to face significant barriers in life and to be at a higher risk for a wide range of negative impacts, including: mental health problems, substance abuse issues, involvement in the criminal justice system, victimization, engagement in unsafe sexual practices, and experience difficulties in finding employment and accessing/completing education. (Click here for more on this topic.)
Our Goal and Our Strategies
We know that the cost of homelessness among youth and young adults is too high for these youth and the wider community. Therefore, the Western PA Continuum of Care (CoC) has identified reducing youth homelessness by 50% as a key goal in the CoC’s Five-Year Strategic Plan. To achieve this goal, the Youth Homelessness Committee has identified several key strategies to work on:
- Develop collaborations with youth who have or still are experiencing homelessness
- Build stronger connections with county and state child welfare, education, and criminal justice agencies
- Expand housing options for youth in Western PA, including rapid re-housing and host homes programs
- Gather better data through the annual Point-in-Time Count and through Youth Counts
- Conduct community outreach to highlight the needs of youth experiencing homelessness
- Ensure youth needs are met through the CoC’s new Coordinated Entry system
The Subcommittee is working to advance these strategies by engaging with stakeholders throughout the Western PA CoC region.
Join Us in Ending Youth Homelessness
To end youth homelessness in the Western PA CoC region we need the help of all stakeholders who work with and serve youth, regardless of whether these youth are 14 or 24, parenting youth or unaccompanied youth, literally homeless, or couch surfing. If you are interested in learning more about our efforts and how we can work together to address youth homelessness, please contact Ciarra Karnes at firstname.lastname@example.org.