In an effort to more accurately represent the number of homeless people under the age of 25 who live in L.A. County, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority has enlisted homeless youth to help count their own.
This is the first time the agency is using homeless youth in its counts, relying on their expertise to help ascertain who is or isn't homeless.
"Otherwise we would really not know where the homeless youth are here locally, which is really important for our planning efforts," said Mark Silverbush, LAHSA policy and planning analyst.
LAHSA, a joint authority comprised of the City and County of Los Angeles, has partnered with several other homeless services organizations to provide the youth volunteers.
Up to 100 homeless youth will be recruited to help in the counting effort being conducted the morning of Jan. 22.
Homeless youth tend to keep later hours and counting them during school hours also helps to prevent duplication during the regular street counts, held Jan. 29-31, said Silverbush.
- Tuesday, Jan. 29 - San Gabriel Valley, East LA County
- Wednesday, Jan. 30 - West LA, South Bay
- Thursday, Jan. 31 - San Fernando Valley/Santa Clarita Valley, Metro LA, South LA
Some 67 cities and 18 communities are participating in the effort, and LAHSA hopes to recruit 5,000 volunteers to be deployed from more than 50 sites across Los Angeles County.
In many of the previous counts, homeless youth were largely unaccounted for, but were estimated to make up only a small portion of the nation's overall homeless population.
"The youth count is a very important component of the homeless count," Silverbush said.
In 2011, it was estimated that homeless people between the ages of 18-24 made up 3.7 percent of Los Angeles County's chronically homeless population, according to a LAHSA report (.pdf).
Even though that number may seem insignificant, today's homeless youth will become tomorrow's homeless adults, Silverbush said.
Los Angeles is home to the largest population of chronically homeless people in the country, according to a 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (.pdf). Los Angeles has also seen its homeless population shrink by 6.8 percent since 2011, the largest such decrease nationwide.
During the street count, volunteers will deploy with clip boards and tally sheets. They will look for obvious signs of homelessness like encampments and tents, in addition to situations where people are living in vans or RV's. During the regular counts, little to no conversation occurs between the counters and the counted, said Silverbush.
The youth count is different.
"The youth are allowed to ask questions of the other youth to ascertain whether the youth is homeless or not," said Silverbush. "Sometimes that can be confusing. Although with their expertise, they're able to know easier than those other [volunteers] would be able to."
Most of the homeless youth in Los Angeles County became homeless here, said Silverbush. In most cases they have their own children. Those that have children tend to be female, otherwise they're alone, he said.
In February, The LAHSA will conduct a demographics survey, where homeless people will be asked a number of questions pertaining to their health and safety. Like with the homeless count, the information collected will be used in advocacy for homeless services.
According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, a number of factors contribute to a person becoming homeless, including:
- The inability to find affordable housing
- A lack of subsidized housing
- The loss of a job or work that doesn’t pay enough to afford housing
- Foreclosures on owned or rented property
- Domestic violence
- Having children at a young age
- Not having a social support network
For information on how you can volunteer, visit the 2013 LAHSA homeless count website.
Resources for Homeless Youth:
- Runaway and Homeless Youth - Through the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program (RHY), the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) supports street outreach, emergency shelters and longer-term transitional living and maternity group home programs to serve and protect these young people.
- Chafee Foster Care Independence Programs - The John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) offers assistance to help current and former foster care youths achieve self-sufficiency.
- Education for Homeless Children and Youth Program - When families become homeless, the experience is traumatizing, especially for children. Research compiled by the National Center on ...
- Job Corps - Job Corps is a free education and training program that helps young people learn a career, earn a high school diploma or GED, and find and keep a good job.
- National Runaway Safeline - The National Runaway Safeline provides education and solution-focused interventions, offers non-sectarian, non-judgmental support, respects confidentiality, collaborates with volunteers, and responds to at-risk youth and their families 24 hours a day.
- Maternity Group Home Program - Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) promotes safety, stability, and well-being for people who have experienced or been exposed to violence, neglect or trauma.
- Street Outreach Program -The Street Outreach Program enables organizations around the country to help young people get off the streets.
- Transitional Living Program (TLP) - Transitional Living Programs support projects that provide long-term residential services to homeless youth. The program accepts youth ages 16-21. Exceptions are granted which allow youth to remain in the program until they reach the age of 18, even if that time exceeds the 21-month limitation.
- YouthBuild - The YouthBuild program provides funds to non-profit organizations to provide an alternative education pathway and teach occupational skills training for low-income youth ages 16-24 who have been adjudicated, are aging out of foster care, or who are high school dropouts.