January’s Point in Time Count – an annual event that provides community data around how many individuals and families are experiencing homelessness and what their needs are – has revealed a dramatic reduction in the numbers of youth experiencing homelessness.
While the overall numbers of individuals and families experiencing homelessness remained more or less level, we saw tremendous progress with youth (18-24) homelessness – a 25% reduction in youth homelessness overall and a 58% reduction in unsheltered youth homelessness!
This is incredibly encouraging news, and a tribute to both the community movement to End Youth Homelessness and our specific work at LifeWorks. In 2016, we joined together with Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), SAFE, Integral Care, Caritas of Austin and numerous other organizations to develop a system that would make youth homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring by 2020. We engaged in a nationally-visible 100 Day Challenge, participated in Chapin Hall’s “Voices of Youth Count,” co-wrote the YHDP grant that resulted in $5.2m to Austin, and co-led the development of the Community Plan to End Youth Homelessness that was approved by HUD and endorsed by the Austin City Council in 2018.
LifeWorks has almost 60 years of history of providing effective, compassionate shelter and housing options, but this marked the first time we decided to address youth homelessness as a community issue we can solve collaboratively and systemically. We are building a system of service and opportunity that will result in making youth homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring.
In 2018, we launched three new programs aligned with these goals. Homelessness Diversion works with school districts, child welfare and juvenile justice to prevent youth from experiencing homelessness; the PORT (Permanence Through Outreach and Rapid Transitions) is a transition-aged youth facility that strives to make homelessness brief; and Rapid Re-Housing places and supports youth in apartments with case management, mental health and workforce support. These three programs have moved almost 80 youth to housing in the last 5 months!
While this is tremendous news, we are hardly finished. There are 258 youth still waiting for housing. Our goal is to continue to scale until we can accurately state that youth homelessness in Austin Texas is rare, brief and non-recurring.
We fully intend to do this – with you - by 2020.