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We Need an Accurate Account of Youths Who Are Homeless in Connecticut

23 September 2014

Brian Roccapriore is the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness Director of Homeless Management Information Systems and Strategic Analysis

Very often, the first step in addressing a problem is to measure it, and understand the scope.  How big is the problem?  How many people does it affect?

Much of the research at the Connecticut state level and the national level has helped us to understand the experience of homeless single adults and families with children.  But we know that we have substantial work to do to develop a meaningful and accurate understanding of homelessness in our youth population (people who are under 24). In fact, using the commonly accepted Point-in-Time (PIT) Count methodology (the national exercise to collect –  on a single night every year in January –  the total number of people who are homeless in our communities), Connecticut counted only five unaccompanied minors in the entire state on the night of  PIT 2014.  

We know that number does not come anywhere close to approximating the real total of homeless young people in Connecticut:  If you were to ask any runaway and homeless youth provider in the state, without batting an eye they would tell you - in detail - how inaccurate that number is based on what they experience every day in the way of youth who are homeless and seeking their help.

Building on the groundwork of the 2013 report “Invisible No More,” completed with expertise from Yale University and sponsored by the Partnership for Strong Communities, the Center for Children’s Advocacy and CCEH, with support from many others, and the 2013 USICH Youth Count  Process study – Connecticut is in the planning stages of the first statewide homeless youth count, which will take place in conjunction with the 2015 PIT count. The 2015 Youth Count itself will build upon lessons learned and best practices of other recent efforts.  This count will –  for the first time – offer concrete quantitative data about our state’s homeless youth.  There is real power in telling the moving stories of individual youth experiencing homelessness.  We need to add real information on the numbers of youth experiencing this trauma to understand the breadth and scope of the issue, and then to plan thoughtfully to address it – and address it effectively.

CCEH will coordinate the 2015 youth count as a collaborative effort between statewide, local, and regional partners.  The count process itself will be youth-inclusive and youth-focused count, with much of the frontline staff composed of young people who will serve as the critical frontlines staff of outreach for the count. The end result of it all will be better data on homeless youth in CT – which will have a direct impact on the ability of youth serving programs to properly advocate for resources they need. Ultimately, we are hopeful that the information gathered in this project, and from other initiatives around the country, can - and will - lead to a shift in policy and practice to move us as states and as a nation toward better ways to identify and meet the needs of these youth.

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