Alana Kroeber, Director of Information Services and Laura Robidoux, 211 Coordinated Intake Housing Program Manager, United Way of CT/2-1-1
As a partner in the state’s Opening Doors initiative to prevent and end homelessness among youth by 2020, 2-1-1 Connecticut has been participating in the Youth Information & Referral (I&R) subgroup alongside our state agency, nonprofits, and youth service provider partners. Like the efforts to end chronic, veteran, and family homelessness, ending homelessness for the 4,396 youth (under age 25) counted in the January 2017 Youth Count requires enormous system change and a multi-faceted approach. And while we recognize that 2-1-1 is only one piece of the larger system, there are actions – however small – that we can take today (and tomorrow, and the next day) that will have meaningful impact.
Participating in the I&R subgroup has allowed us to get to know the Youth Researchers at the Youth Action Hub (YAH), a research and advocacy center. Hearing directly from youth, especially from those who have been in vulnerable housing situations themselves, has been critical to shaping our approach this issue.
Youth surveys conducted by the YAH produced several key findings about the way Connecticut youth access information and referral – how they seek help:
Many youth lack awareness about 2-1-1 and its role as the front door to emergency shelter and housing resources.
Youth are more likely to seek help via other channels than to dial 2-1-1 by phone.
Youth seeking help need to reach providers who offer personalized service, and are caring and relatable.
There are a variety of barriers (i.e. transportation, documentation) preventing youth from getting connected to services, even if they access the first step of obtaining information and getting a referral.
The YAH study findings are important and we have worked closely with the I&R subgroup and the YAH to take some initial steps to help encourage more youth experiencing a housing (or other) crisis to connect to services through 2-1-1.
To increase awareness of 2-1-1 among youth and young adults, we have worked with the I&R subgroup on a flyer that will be distributed to places where youth look for help (schools, libraries, teen centers). We are also expanding and increasing our use of social media to reach young people now on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.
To give young people alternative ways to connect with us, we have made our website mobile, user friendly and created a specific Youth and Young Adult resource webpage. We launched a live chat option via the website, and will soon offer a text channel as well. Additionally, we partnered with the Department of Children and Families on an agreement with Crisis Text Line so that residents can now text ‘CT’ to 741-741 to get help via text from that service provider.
To make the experience of seeking help easier and more personalized, we have worked closely with the Coordinated Access Networks to implement specific protocols for youth and young adults experiencing a housing crisis. These protocols vary by region, but all aim to connect the youth calling 2-1-1 with providers experienced and trained in serving this demographic and have recently involved specialized funding for immediate shelter and transportation.
To address other obstacles often preventing youth from accessing services, we have highlighted those barriers on our Youth webpage with links to organizations that can help. And we have added youth specific sections to some of our eLibrary papers related to documentation and other relevant topics.
While movement is being made to help this particularly vulnerable population, we know that our work is not over. There are great ideas from the I&R subgroup that we still hope to implement. Like the other incredible partners in this effort, we will continue to keep improving access to services for Youth and Youth Adults until we have reached the goal of ending and preventing youth homelessness.
Click here to read previous blog.