In almost all communities in North America, the number of youth experiencing homelessness exceeds the capacity of the housing resources available to them. This situation leaves communities with the predicament of trying to decide who to prioritize for the precious few spots available in housing programs. For adults, this same dynamic exists and many communities have turned to vulnerability assessment tools to help them make these difficult decisions. Most communities have moved to a coordinated entry system. In such systems, most agencies within a community pool their housing resources in a centralized system. People seeking housing are first assessed for eligibility. Criteria usually include being chronically homeless, in addition to veteran status and vulnerability (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2015, 2016). Based on these assessments, individuals are prioritized for housing and placed on waiting lists until appropriate housing becomes available in the community.
In the context of adult homelessness, tools for assessing vulnerability have focused on assessing factors associated with premature mortality (Hwang, Lebow, Bierer et al., 1998; Juneau Economic Development Council, 2009; Swanborough, 2011) or with greatest system costs (Economic Roundtable, 2011). However, since youth under age 24 are unlikely to experience health-related premature mortality or to have created enormous system costs, new assessment tools have been developed in recent years that reflect the needs and realities of youth who are homeless. Most widely used are the TAY Triage Tool (Rice, 2013), developed by the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and myself, and the Next Step Tool for Homeless Youth,1 which was developed by Orgcode Consulting (2015) with CSH and myself.