November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month

Homeless YouthEach year more than 1.5 million children are homeless at some point in their lives, and that number is increasing.” That quote comes from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) and shows just how big an issue  Youth Homelessness is.  Whether the child is a runaway, an orphan or hitting hard times with their family, being on the street exposes them to many dangers – increased likelihood of substance abuse, early parenthood, impulsivity, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a vulnerability to being trafficked.

Almost 40% of those who are currently homeless are under the age of 18, according to Covenant House.  They also state that in the United States, as many as 20,000 kids are forced into prostitution by human trafficking networks every year.  With statistics like these, it’s no wonder that the month of November has been designated as National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, when temperatures are dropping across the nation.

Here are some great sites with information for various groups to get involved and help stamp out homelessness:

National Homeless Youth Awareness Month (November 2011)NCTSN

What Is Family Homelessness?The National Center on Family Homelessness

National Alliance to End Homelessness

If you are a shelter, this would be a great time to reach out to your supporters and enlist them to help.  Break down the need into bite-sized chunks to encourage involvement as focusing on the big picture can be overwhelming.  Be specific about what your shelter needs.  Maybe you have enough food donations, but not enough clothes.  Maybe you have the workers/volunteers, but not enough money to buy beds.  Maybe you have enough size 1 diapers, but not enough size 5’s.  Also, make it a family affair.  Brainstorm ways for parents AND their children to get involved and come serve.

If you are not a shelter, or an organization offering homelessness assistance, here are some ways that you can get involved:

  • Find a local shelter that works with homeless youth and learn about what is being done in your community to fight youth homelessness.
  • Volunteer your time by serving food at these shelters.  Many teens who are homeless are not getting the education they need to succeed in life once they reach adulthood.  Volunteer as a tutor to help these youths get or stay on track to a high school diploma or GED.  Proper job training can be vital to helping kids interview for a job and keep that job to meet their basic costs of living like rent.
  • Volunteer on a search group to find homeless youths and help bring them to the shelter where they can get assistance and be provided with resources to help get and keep them off the streets.
  • Donate much needed materials to shelters.  As winter creeps ever closer, homeless shelters struggle to keep enough blankets, towels and coats in their facilities to meet the needs.  Other items needed are shampoo, soap, new socks and undergarments and much more.  Contact your local shelter and ask what their biggest need is, then coordinate a drive with your workplace, place of worship and community.
  • As a non-profit, you may have a related service you provide. Have you thought about working a collaboration with a local shelter? Sharing resources in this economy is a great way to continue to meet needs without going over budget. For example, a community garden program could donate their fresh vegetables to the shelter for healthy dinners.  A women’s quilting club could come together and donate their finished blankets.  The possibilities are endless.

This article was featured in the November 2011 issue of our monthly newsletter, CDP Press.
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Free SAMHSA Homelessness Resource Center Webcast

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is offering a FREE webcast on Thursday, Jan 27, 2011 from 1 – 2:30pm (ET) called “Promoting a Healthy Work Environment in Homeless Services: What Works.”

Here’s the description from the website:

People working in homeless services, regardless of their position, face challenging working conditions and are at risk of burnout. How can agencies best support staff and promote a positive work environment? Sign up for a free SAMHSA HRC webcast to learn more. Presenters Ken Kraybill, B.J. Iacino, Ayala Livny, and Tye Deines will share lessons learned and offer strategies for promoting a healthy workplace. The presenters will describe the characteristics of a trauma-informed healthy work environment and will address topics ranging from: identifying organizational core values, developing a “learning environment,” ensuring effective supervision, integrating consumers, practicing inclusive decision-making and promoting self-care.

Those who should attend this webcast are direct service providers, outreach workers, case managers, peer support specialists, project directors, supervisors and team leaders.


Ken Kraybill is Director of Training at the Center for Social Innovation.
B.J. Iacino is the Director of Education and Advocacy at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
Ayala Livny is the Program Manager for Youth on Fire, a drop-in center for homeless youth ages 14-24 in Cambridge, MA and a program of AIDS Action Committee.
Tye Deines is the Director of Human Resources at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.

You can get more information and register for this webcast by going to the SAMHSA webpage.

Article: Child and Youth Homelessness in Our Nation’s Schools

WASHINGTON  – Federal data was just released regarding homelessness among children and youth.  The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and First Focus compiled and analyzed the data into an article of the current condition of child and youth homelessness.

Homelessness as a whole has increased across the nation with the continuation of economic troubles.  Many families find themselves suddenly without a car, home, job or all three and struggle knowing how to pull through.  These families often have children in tow and face the challenge of getting them fed, clothed and educated.  Schools have been able to step in and provide assistance for children at risk or currently homeless, but many budget cuts are limiting the amount of money available for such services. 

The number of homeless children and youth has increased nationwide by 41% in the last 2 years.  62% of cases cited the economic downturn as the reason for becoming homeless.  $70 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will go to the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) to assist public schools in doing more to bring these numbers down.  Even so, only one in five school districts will receive any support through ARRA homeless education funds or the regular McKinney-Vento funding.

This money is used by the districts in many different ways such as to increase support, transportation assistance, expanding outreach and identification efforts, strengthening support for specific subpopulations of homeless children and youth and many more.  One school used the funds to hire staff for the sole purpose of checking local motels.  The year prior, they had 191 identified homeless students, but at the end of that year of targeted searching, that number rose to 2,197.

The ARRA surveyed the participating school districts asking what the greatest challenges were for them.  Lack of affordable housing topped the chart at 47% and was closely followed by “identification of homeless students” at 44%.  Other challenges include “transportation to school of origin” (32%), “basic needs (clothing, health, etc)” (29%) and “lack of community collaboration” (10%).  The report also shows a breakdown of the increase in homeless students from the year 2006-2008 by state.  Ohio came in at 18% increase during those two years.

For the full report, please visit the NAEHCY website:

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