Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adult Homelessness
Across the United States, there are an estimated 1.7 million - 4.2 million unaccompanied youth who are experiencing homelessness, but figures are imprecise (See National Network for Youth and Chapin Hall data, as well as Boston/Suffolk County data: one-page overview and in-depth report from Chapin Hall). Fall 2013 data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), released in 2014, estimated that there were 4,085 students in Massachusetts public high schools who were experiencing homelessness and not in the custody of their parent or legal guardian. (Additional data: Youth Risk Behavior Survey data from ESE; 2015-2016 school year data from ESE on unaccompanied youth and other students experiencing homelessness directly identified by school districts.) Additional efforts are underway to get a more accurate count of the full extent of unaccompanied youth homelessness in the Commonwealth, notably through the work of the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (see below for more details.)
Since 2010, the Coalition has convened a Task Force on Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness and organized more broadly in the community to bring together providers, advocates, and youth to work together to improve and expand housing and services for unaccompanied youth. The Coalition was the lead organization behind passage of the Commonwealth’s landmark youth homelessness law, An Act promoting housing and support services to unaccompanied homeless youths (Chapter 450 of the Acts of 2014, now Chapter 6A, Sections 16W and 16X of the Massachusetts General Laws). The legislation, passed by the Legislature in December 2014 and signed into law by former Governor Deval Patrick in January 2015, is creating increased housing opportunities and expand support services for youth and young adults age 24 and younger who are experiencing homelessness outside the custody or care of a parent or guardian. The law also puts the Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth into state statue, and strengthens the state's planning processes on youth homelessness issues. For fiscal year 2016, the first year the line item was funded, the Legislature allocated $2 million to implement the law via line item 4000-0007, and unanimously overrode Governor Baker's veto of the funding in July 2015. For more background on that phase of the campaign, see the Coalition's veto override campaign letter to Legislative Leadership and press release). For FY'19, the line item is funded at $3.3 million, with funding distributed to ten regional youth-serving agencies: Barnstable County Department of Human Services, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Catholic Social Services, City of Springfield, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Community Teamwork, Father Bill's & MainSpring, L.U.K. Crisis Center, Inc., Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, and South Middlesex Opportunity Council.
FY'20 Policy Campaigns with and for Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adults:
For fiscal year 2020 (July 1, 2019-June 30, 2020), the Coalition is focused on a variety of policy initiatives directly and indirectly related to unaccompanied youth, including but not limited to our campaigns to:
- Increase funding for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness: We are working to increase funding for line item 4000-0007 so as to better serve and partner with youth and young adults age 24 and younger who are without homes. We are working to secure $5 million for the line item in FY'20, up from the FY'19 funding level of $3.3 million. A funding level of $5 million would provide increased housing and wraparound services to youth and young adults experiencing homelessness and housing instability through the 10 regional agencies selected in FY'19 to administer the program, in conjunction with numerous partner organizations. The lead regional agencies are Barnstable County Department of Human Services, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Catholic Social Services, City of Springfield, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Community Teamwork, Father Bill's & MainSpring, L.U.K. Crisis Center, Inc., Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, and South Middlesex Opportunity Council. Sign on your organization as a campaign endorser today.
- Increase funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) homelessness prevention program: We are working to increase RAFT funding from $20 million to $27 million to serve more unaccompanied youth, young adults, elders, people with disabilities, and other households without minor children, as well as families with children, and to create an upstream homelessness prevention pilot program within RAFT to help households pay off back rent/back mortgage bills before eviction and foreclosure processes are formally underway.
- Increase funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP): We are working to increase MRVP funding from $100 million to $130 million and to ensure a better match between actual rent levels and the subsidy levels.
- Increase funding for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP): We are working to increase AHVP funding from $6.15 million to $8 million so that the program can serve more individuals under the age of 60 who are living with disabilties and have extremely low incomes.
- Maintain funding for the Home and Healthy for Good Program (HHG): We are working to ensure at least level funding of $2.39 million for HHG, which serves individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.
- Ease access to Massachusetts identification cards for youth and other people experiencing homelessness: We are working to include language in the FY'20 budget and through the bill process to make it easier for people experiencing homelessness to access standard Mass IDs by waiving the $25 fee and allowing for alternative forms of verification. See An Act to provide identification to homeless youth and families on our bill chart.
- Create a bill of rights for youth and other people experiencing homelessness: We are working to pass legislation to create a bill of rights for people without homes, and to amend various state statutes to decrease discrimination and barriers facing people experiencing homelessness when they try to exercise basic human and civil rights. See An Act providing a bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness and An Act relative to the safety, dignity, and civil rights of persons experiencing homelessness on our bill chart.
The Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth:The Coalition also has been a driving force behind the creation and momentum of the Massachusetts Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (now known as the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth, but just as special!) The FY'13 budget included key language from the bill to establish a special statewide commission on unaccompanied youth. Click here to see the Coalition's press release on passage of budget language to establish the special commission and here to see the text of the budget language, as signed into law. The commission's work began in December 2012, under the Administration of Governor Deval Patrick, continuing until January 2015. The Commission officially reconvened under the Administration of Governor Charlie Baker in October 2015.
Recent Commission reports and data:
- Massachusetts State Plan to End Youth Homelessness and two-page overview, released in May 2018
- Massachusetts Youth Count 2017 report and additional information about the 2017 Massachusetts Youth Count
- Data on how the funds from the unaccompanied youth and young adult homelessness line item, 4000-0007, were spent in FY'16 and early FY'17 can be found here: February 2017 overview of the impact of demonstration project funding and here: Executive Office of Health and Human Services report from March 1, 2017 to the Legislature on the End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund (line item 1599-0017) and Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Services (line item 4000-0007)
- Massachusetts Youth Count 2016: Methodology and Findings report, released on July 12, 2017. Cover art by Kitty Zen: www.instagram.com/kitty.zen.artist and www.artlifting.com/collections/kitty-zen
- Massachusetts Youth Count 2015: Methodology and Findings report, released on June 30, 2016, and written by the Coalition and the Department of Housing and Community Development.
- The 2014 year-end status report, released on December 31, 2014:
- Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth FY'15 Status Report
- Appendix A: Massachusetts Youth Count 2014: Overview and Analysis (via the EOHHS website)
- Appendix B: Geographic Distribution of Services Available to Homeless Unaccompanied Youth in Massachusetts
- Appendix C: Financial Forecasting Model
- An analysis of the process and results of the first-in-the-nation statewide youth homelessness survey was released on October 1, 2014, and is available via the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) website.
- Here is the Commission's inaugural report, released in June 2013. A status update on the work of the Commission was released on March 31, 2014, and is available here: Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Status Report
See our Taking Action page to learn more about you can help us to ensure that youth, young adults, and everyone in Massachusetts has a place to call home.