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Helping Homeless Youth Now

7 April 2015

Paul Kosowsky is a member of the Reaching Home Campaign's Runaway and Homeless Youth Workgroup. He is Vice President of Programs at Youth Continuum in New Haven

Homeless youth exist in far greater numbers and for far more complex reasons than is widely recognized. In New Haven alone, Youth Continuum, Inc. serves 200 newly identified homeless youth each year. Racial and sexual minority youth are over-represented. 78% are female; 50% are pregnant and/or parenting. Most have suffered multiple traumas and are at higher risk for sexual assault, contracting HIV/AIDS, incarceration, becoming addicted to drugs and /or victims of commercial sex trafficking. Over 30% have seriously considered or attempted suicide.

It is difficult for young people to qualify to receive services under some federal definitions of homelessness, or to meet eligibility criteria for programs designed to end adult homelessness. Systems designed to end veteran and chronic homelessness often work against solutions needed by youth and young adults. CT currently has fewer than 30 shelter and transitional housing beds dedicated to non system-involved homeless youth, and only a handful of agencies specializing in helping this vulnerable population. 

On April 9th, the Reaching Home Campaign’s Homeless Youth Workgroup of Opening Doors-CT, with the generous support of the Melville Charitable Trust, is hosting a showing of the documentary movie, The Homestretch, a powerful portrayal of several homeless young people in Chicago.  I urge you to confront the issues facing homeless youth in this film and consider how you can put your energies to help end the tragic conditions affecting so many young people here in CT every day. 

The stories shared in The Homestretch remind us that while our ability to count homeless youth and collect data is steadily improving, there is a generation of homeless and at-risk young people who need help immediately. A framework for ending youth homeless in CT is now in place. The difficult work ahead will require the political will to find funding and create systems that respond to the unique circumstances, dynamics and needs of youth.  Ask your legislators and policy makers to join with providers, advocacy groups and philanthropists to ensure that our young people have a safe place to sleep, a community that cares about them and the opportunity for a hopeful future. 

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