Nov 9, 2016

Ending Youth Homelessness? Is it possible?

HUD has a project under way called the 100-Day Challenge. You can read about it at here . SYM was not invited to participate at the start, and that bothered me. Shortly afterward, we were asked to help. I wasn't sure whether this was a stunt or "for real." However, we engaged to find out more about how to help our clients. At this point, it is a real project and ECHO is coming to our events frequently to give clients updates and sign up more for a housing list. I don't know whether we can hit our goal – finding housing for 50 currently homeless young people in 100 days -- but it has housed some already, and many of our clients are on the waiting list and excited.
To take a larger role, SYM reached out to ECHO (Ending Community Homelessness Coalition) with the helps of our long-time partner Lifeworks. Following executive level discussions, we reached initial agreement to become part of a community program to bring permanent HUD assistance to Austin to end community homelessness among youth by 2020. I was quite hesitant, because SYM does not believe that permanent supported housing alone is the solution. ​However, the executives assured me that our voice was welcome and indeed needed if we are to try to address this issue with a wider range of tools than HUD currently supports.
We will see, but it would be wonderful to end youth homelessness in Austin. Functionally, that might mean that youth who age out of foster care would only rarely become homeless. (That would solve half the street youth homelessness.) And it would mean that once homeless young persons are identified, they are helped and housed, and they don't undergo multiple cycles of homelessness, which is now the case. Our clients usually either spend 18 months homeless or 10 years. This means that some find ways to rapidly get off the street but many others get stuck in cycles of homelessness.
Our goal in joining the group is to help Austin learn how to prevent as many youth as possible from becoming homeless, especially from foster care, and then to learn how to shorten the exit time from 18 months and prevent recurrence. It will not be easy and the needs are very different than those of other segments of the homeless population. But agreeing to talk, plan and come together is a good sign.