02/22/2013 - The Youth Point-in-Time Count: Philanthropy Partnering with Government to End Youth Homelessness
Funders Together to End Homelessness is the only national network of funders working to end homelessness. We promote a catalytic approach to philanthropy that goes beyond grantmaking to active civic engagement in solving homelessness.
Early last year, Funders Together to End Homelessness started to hear from our philanthropic members around the country. They wanted to know what they could do to help those youth who were living on the streets, without a safe or stable home. There was suddenly a buzz – a groundswell of interest in the issue of youth homelessness. Funders wanted to know how they could support efforts in their community to focus on both ending and preventing youth homelessness. The issue was at the forefront and the will was there; the problem was that funders were unsure of how best to approach the issue and what to do that would make a difference, not only in the short term, but in creating long-term, sustainable solutions. They lacked basic data to even know where to start. There was a need to know how many youth were affected in their communities, to learn who these youth were, and to understand how they came to be in this situation. Most importantly, they needed to know what kinds of initiatives they could support that would help prevent or end this tragedy of youth homelessness.
Around the same time as we were hearing from our members, Funders Together was holding meetings in Washington, D.C. with senior government officials from the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS), along with the U.S. Interagency on Homelessness (USICH) and the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH). During these meetings we discussed this burning issue and how we could work together to gather data to assist in developing best practices around preventing and ending youth homelessness.
As a result of these conversations, a partnership was formed between Funders Together and USICH, HUD, HHS, and the Department of Education (ED), focusing on a national initiative that would gather data and examine best practices in nine target communities around a youth Point-in-Time count, Youth Count!. Working together in this public/private partnership, we were able to identify communities where we felt there would be interest in taking part in this initiative and where there was the support needed to make it happen. This initiative would be a first step in identifying, collecting, and completing a cross-site national evaluation of data on homeless youth collected in these eight cities and one rural area. By learning more about these youth and what programs and strategies the communities were building, we would develop a better awareness of what would help communities protect, nurture, and embrace their youth and build systems that create stability, safety, and hope for their futures.
Funders Together – Engaging Philanthropy
The success of this initiative has thrilled us. Through our funder member network we were able to connect with foundations and United Ways in every location and to engage them around the youth Point-in-Time count. In all nine communities, funders stepped forward to fund the evaluation portion of the initiative. Some communities gave additional funds to help other smaller communities who had a harder time raising the money. One national funder was able to secure funding from a number of sources to ensure that the youth Point-in-Time count in each community reached out to LGBTQ youth – a population disproportionately represented among youth experiencing homelessness. We were also grateful to the United Way of King County, who stepped forward to handle the administration of the funds and is coordinating the work with the initiative’s national evaluator, The Urban Institute.
Once the evaluation of the data is complete, the results will be disseminated nationally and will be used to help communities understand how to identify and understand their youth and the issues that have brought them into homelessness. This data will assist communities as they begin to build effective systems to end and prevent this terrible reality that exists in America. The report will be released this summer and will be made available to all communities interested in doing something to help their homeless youth.
We must continue to work and to create opportunities to build and strengthen effective systems around youth homelessness throughout the country. We must also seek out opportunities to collaborate; it is only together that we can create communities that no longer tolerate leaving our youth without a safe home, choosing to protect, nurture and keep youth in need safe and housed.