We had a couple great meetings today on youth homelessness. The first, which was about setting the stage for the next 4 months of work on youth homelessness, brought together some of our non-traditional partners, We will repeat this information and discussion at next week’s meeting of the CoC Board of Directors.
IT’S THE RIGHT TIME TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO PREVENT AND END YOUTH HOMELESSNESS
We were joined by our consultant team who are working on youth homelessness at the national and state level, who told us that now is the time to do this work. There is more attention, efforts and funding being directed at youth homelessness than ever before, and there has been great learning in communities throughout the country about the scope and characteristics of youth homelessness and what it takes to prevent and end it. In addition, the state of Massachusetts has recently created a plan to end youth homelessness and is supporting this work in all regions of the state through both program funds and technical support.
We did a quick look at what our system is now, and found a mix of some bad news but great opportunity.
We are ready to seize this moment now and use the focus and energy to make a difference in our community!
NEEDS ASSESSMENT AND YOUTH PARTNERSHIP
With support from the state and a talented team of consultants, we are beginning a needs assessment to help us drill down and understand the youth in our community who become homeless, what their needs are, what services we have and what’s missing, and how we work together. The goal of the 4-month process is to help us organize and move toward a better system. We’ll start this by looking together at data and lived experience in our existing system, working together to identify next steps, and then moving ourselves in the direction of a better response. We know that youth homelessness is a complex social problem that happens at the intersection of many systems, so we are inviting all the systems to the table to learn how we can work collaboratively to drive better outcomes.
We know that youth and young adults must be partners with us in this work. We are working with Jamila Bradley, who has helped to create partnerships between young people and adults in other communities, to help us break down barriers and move toward authentic conversations and shared decision-making at the community system change level. Jamila told us today that she is also challenging each of us to do this within our own organizations.
In March and April, our team will conduct focus groups, contact key stakeholders, analyze data and begin our partnership with young people. We plan to reconvene with all of our partners in early May to share what we have learned and talk about next steps.
FOSTER CARE-YOUTH HOMELESSNESS JOURNEY MAPPING
In a separate but complementary process, we are one of two cities that are part of a national project that is designing interventions to reduce the flow from foster care to homelessness. Today we gathered a number of youth and homeless service agencies to tease out the experiences for youth as they enter and then leave or age out of foster care, and what comes next. DCF, DYS, Roca, the Children’s Study Home, the Springfield Juvenile Court, the Key Program, Gandara, CHD, and Friends of the Homeless brought their daily work into the room to help us gain deep understanding of the journey that youth experience as they move through the foster care system and into their adult lives.
Our design team will synthesize what we learned from this today, and share it back to us, and also repeat the process with a small group of youth who have been through the foster care system. From there this learning will point to places where interventions can lead to better outcomes.
WHAT CAN YOU DO NOW?
We will be in touch with some of you to ask you to participate in a focus group or an interview.
We also hope you will also help identify young adults who are willing to talk about their experiences of the systems in our community. We will compensate participants $25 for an hour and a half of their time. There are two upcoming young adult focus groups:
- Young adults (18-24) with experience of unstable housing – Friday, March 8, 2:30-4
- Young adults with experience of foster care (and possibly also experience of unstable housing after foster care) – Tuesday, March 19, 2:30-4
We are seeking young adults for both groups that have had many different types of experiences. If you know someone who is interested in participating, or someone who would like more information about what the experience will be live, please contact Gerry McCafferty; firstname.lastname@example.org
In our meetings today, we mentioned a few key resources related to this work.
Massachusetts State Plan to End Youth Homelessness: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/05/01/Massachusetts%20State%20Plan%20to%20End%20Youth%20Homelessness%20-%202018.pdf)
Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America (National Estimate): http://voicesofyouthcount.org/brief/national-estimates-of-youth-homelessness/
Toward a System Response to Ending Youth Homelessness: https://youthcollaboratory.org/sites/default/files/attachments/2018-11/Chapin%20Hall%20Youth%20Collaboratory%20Toward%20A%20System%20Response%20To%20Youth%20Homele….pdf