June 24, 2015
Making Youth Voices Count Nationally
By Katie Hong
Director, Youth Homelessness

I’ve written before about how important it is to truly understand a problem before you can solve it. You need to know its full scope, its causes, its exacerbating factors and its consequences. Unfortunately, youth homelessness is often an invisible and undercounted problem. We’ve been working hard in King County to get a more accurate count of homeless youth in our community and, just as important, a better-understanding of the distinct needs of youth who experience homelessness. This information is helping our community more effectively and efficiently make youth homelessness rare, brief and a one-time occurrence.

Unfortunately, we know very little about the scale and nature of youth homelessness at the national level. This has been a major barrier for policy efforts across the country as lawmakers understandably ask for accurate numbers to measure the scope of the problem and the effectiveness of work to address it. Current efforts to provide these numbers are under-resourced, not well-monitored, and delivered in fragments.

This is why we are so excited to partner with funder colleagues such as the Melville Trust, Campion Foundation, Ballmer Group Philanthropy and Casey Family Programs as well as organizations like the National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Network for Youth, and True Colors Fund to support the launch of Voices of Youth Count. Led by Chapin Hall—a nationally respected research and policy center based at the University of Chicago—this nationwide effort will lead a comprehensive and actionable effort that will help all of us:

  • Better-understand the scale and scope of the problem nationally;
  • Better-articulate the needs of homeless youth by bringing forward and highlighting the voices of youth; and
  • Articulate effective policy responses at the federal, state and local levels based on reliable data and research on existing interventions

The United State Interagency Council on Homelessness has set the ambitious goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020.  We are hopeful that Voices of Youth Count can inform smarter, more targeted strategies to accomplish this goal in every community.