Toward a System Response to Ending Youth Homelessness

New Evidence to Help Communities Strengthen Coordinated Entry, Assessment, and Support for Youth 

The number of youth experiencing homelessness each year in the United States far exceeds current resources to house them. As a result, communities must move toward a system-level response to the broad challenge of youth homelessness. To support communities’ efforts toward a system response, we analyzed the largest national data set combining risk assessments with homelessness systems data on youth. We found that a common risk assessment tool for youth can effectively help local systems prioritize limited housing resources. We also found positive outcomes associated with housing programs for youth. Yet, far too many youth languish in homelessness and wait long and harmful periods to get critical supports. Moreover, youth of color were more likely to come into homelessness systems. These youth also remained in homelessness systems for longer periods, and they tended to have fewer successful exits from homelessness by returning to their families. These findings highlight further opportunities for systems to focus on racial equity in addressing the homelessness challenge. Overall, the lessons from this analysis bolster the idea that communities can build collective intake and assessment (“coordinated entry”) systems, develop creative service delivery approaches for youth who do not immediately receive housing, and strengthen data to measure and improve long-term outcomes.

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