National Homeless Youth Awareness Month
November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. In New Jersey, according to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress:
- Nationally, there were 36,907 unaccompanied homeless children and youth on a single night in 2014. And in New Jersey, there were 643 unaccompanied homeless children and youth.
- Most (87% or 32,240) were youth between the ages of 18 and 24.
- 13% (or 4,667) were children under the age of 18.
These numbers are most likely undercounts as the unaccompanied homeless children and youth population is very difficult to count. Homeless youth often blend in to the general population and choose “couch surfing” with friends to avoid homeless shelters
New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) is working to help the state’s homeless youth population.
DCF’s Office of Adolescent Services‘ youth supportive housing system has over 300 transitional housing beds statewide for youth 16 to 21 years of age. Youth living in supportive housing receive supportive case management and resources to break the cycle of homelessness and transition successfully into adulthood.
This year, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs provided 100 Project Based Section 8 housing vouchers for the homeless youth population. DCF has designated 60 units for the Youth At-Risk of Homelessness (YARH) Phase II Federal Project. These vouchers will help high need youth with current or previous foster care experience that may also have a mental health diagnosis, substance abuse issues, or criminal justice histories.
Based on data and feedback from youth, staff, and other critical stakeholders, the remaining 40 vouchers twill be used to help youth statewide, including expectant and parenting youth.
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness released an amendment in 2012 to the “Opening Doors: Federal and Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness“, to outline strategies to prevent and address youth homelessness.
DCF’s work is aligned with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness’ 2012 amendment to its “Opening Doors” plan.
DCF will continue to use quantitative and qualitative data to understand the needs of homeless youth and use best practice screening and assessment tools, housing program models, and system/individual level intervention models to address their needs and promote dynamic and positive outcomes.
The following resources for assistance are available for youth who may be at risk for homelessness:
- A youth friendly website featuring resources and supports for youth experiencing homelessness.
- The Adolescent Housing Hub at 1-877-652-7624
- DCF’s Office of Adolescent Services at 1-609-888-7100 and website.
- The National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929) or
- The Teen Project’s shelter locator
Join the conversation on #HomelessYouth on Twitter.