ending youth homelessness

November is National Runaway Prevention Month

Written by: Hillary Ladig & Elizabeth Smith Miller, NSPN Communications Team

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Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away each year. If all of these young people lived in one city, it would be the fifth largest city in the U.S. These numbers are simply unacceptable, especially when you consider that many of these youth will end up on the streets. They are not bad kids; they are good kids caught up in bad situations. By supporting National Runaway Prevention Month (NRPM), you’re showing America’s runaway and homeless youth that they are not invisible and they are not alone.

Here are some ways you can get involved in NRPM and create awareness in your community:

  • Facebook Profile Picture – Wednesday, November 2nd: Lately, the trend on Facebook is to add a filter to your profile picture to show that you support a certain cause and to spread awareness. This year, the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) has created an NRPM filter you can utilize to show support for runaway and homeless youth: [link to profile filter]
  • Wear Green Day – Wednesday, November 9th: Most people have something green in their closet; whether it be a t-shirt, tie, pair of socks, etc. Coordinate a “Wear Green” day with your coworkers, friends, students, and/or classmates on November 9th. This is a fun and easy way to encourage people to learn more about NRPM. For added impact, take a photo of your group wearing green and post it to social media using the hashtag #NRPM2016. Tag NRS and they’ll share your photo.
  • National Candlelight Vigil – Wednesday, November 16th: Youth Service agencies, community groups, and individuals will host candlelight vigils to show solidarity with youth in crisis. Host your own candlelight vigil in your neighborhood, at your school, your workplace, your place of worship, etc. This event is low cost and high impact.
  • Selfie Sign Day – Wednesday, November 23rd: On this day, NRS’ website, www.1800runaway.org, will have a “Selfie Sign” available for individuals to download. The sign will show you are supporting NRPM 2016, but they’re also encouraging everyone to use the caption, “This is how I have helped a friend…” and have everyone share a story about how they’ve helped a friend.

National Safe Place Network is honored to partner with NRS and the National Network for Youth to support NRPM. To learn more about NRPM, please visit: http://www.1800runaway.org/runaway-prevention-month/

To view the 2016 NRPM Toolkit and Messaging Guide, please click here: http://www.1800runaway.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/NRPM-2016-ToolKit-and-Messaging-Guide-1.pdf

Poem: The Flame Within
My living flame burns bright inside.
Not dimmed or extinguished by tears I have cried.
I hold it closely and protect its light.
To guide me through what feels like eternal night.
How can such a small flame light my way?
Does it have the strength to repel the cold things people say?
I recognize what you may not.
That my flame, while small, is very hot.
It heats my mind with thoughts of those who were kind.
It eases my fear when strangers are near.
It ignites my passion to do what is right for me.
When others only focus on the wrong that they see.
For all of us looking to find some sense of ease,
for some sense of safety,
for some sense of peace.
For some sign that we are not alone,
let your flames burn brightly to guide us “home.”

~ Anonymous

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Cutting Through the Noise: Advocating for our Kids during the Presidential Election

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

As a political junkie, I love presidential election years. I especially love years like this: where a few months ago there was no incumbent and wide-open races on both sides (depending on who you ask). These campaign cycles can also be incredibly frustrating. Candidates visit small towns where they would never otherwise set foot, eat state fair food, rub elbows with locals, and mug for photos. It all feels inauthentic. Fake. How can a long-serving U.S. senator really speak on behalf of working families? How can a billionaire relate to middle class workers? How can privileged white men and women relate to the plights of runaway youth? How can powerful people understand what it’s like to be homeless when they have never had to worry whether they will have a place to sleep, or a hot meal and shower waiting for them in the morning?

This is where we come in. As advocates, youth workers, execs leading youth and family-serving agencies, it’s up to us to make sure the needs of these young people and families are heard. We need to beat the drum to make sure affordable housing, funds for runaway and homeless youth programs, and affordable health care for young people are priorities for elected leaders at all levels of government – from city council to the President of the United States.

Here are some ideas for getting involved this election year:

  1. Host elected officials at your organization or shelter. Show them around and explain how you operate, what you need, and what it means to the young people you serve. This could include your city officials, state senators and representations, or US congress members. If you are in an early caucus or primary state, you may even be able to get a presidential candidate (see above comments).
  2. Write Letters to the Editor of your local papers. Highlight your programs and how proposed legislative changes (at all levels of government), will impact your agencies and the youth you service, for the better or worse.
  3. Communicate with your elected officials. Make phone calls. Email them. National officials track the number of calls and emails they receive on specific issues. State officials often do the same. It may not seems like they are listening, they are tracking!
  4. Encourage your staff to vote. Encourage young people to vote. Take young people to the primaries or election in November. Help them register. It’s their right.

However you get involved, don’t pass up this opportunity to make your voice heard and advocate on behalf of the young people we serve.

August 12 is International Youth Day

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The United Nations declared August 12 International Youth Day in 1999, providing an opportunity to celebrate young people around the world. The focus of this year’s International Youth Day is to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. You can read more about the agenda here: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld

The United Nations has also developed a toolkit with activity ideas to celebrate International Youth Day: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/documents/Toolkit-IYD-2016.pdf

One activity listed in the toolkit is “Advocate.” While the toolkit stresses advocating for celebrating International Youth Day and encouraging youth to make sustainable consumption choices given this year’s focus, an important advocacy activity in the United States is for the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Every country except the United States has ratified the treaty.

Ratification of the treaty has resulted in greater restrictions on employing children, greater focus on child heath, and a decrease in legal corporal punishment against children. It is past time for the United States to pass this treaty and solidify its commitment to children at home and abroad.

National Safe Place Week 2016

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National Safe Place Week 2016 (#NSPWeek2016) is upon us! This nationally recognized week serves to raise awareness of Safe Place, an outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis. NSP Week is also a dedicated time to recognize the various partners who collaborate to offer immediate help and safety for young people. Partners include licensed Safe Place agencies, businesses, civic and social services organizations, volunteers, donors – both on the local and national levels. These partners stand together to strengthen the safety net for youth in America and that’s exactly the reason we’re celebrating this week!

To understand more about the program, let’s look back at its origin:

Safe Place launched in Louisville, Kentucky in 1983 as an outreach program of the YMCA Shelter House, a youth and family service organization of the YMCA of Greater Louisville. Access to emergency counseling and shelter for youth was raised as a community need and YMCA Shelter House figured out a solution – the creation of Safe Place. Neighborhood businesses and community volunteers stepped up to the plate and designated their business locations as Safe Place sites, creating multiple “front doors” through which youth could access the local shelter program. Who knew this local outreach effort would become such a successful and impactful program and go on to become a nationally recognized prevention and intervention initiative?

Safe Place logo

 

How Safe Place works:

  • A young person enters a Safe Place location and asks for help.
  • The site employee finds a comfortable place for the youth to wait while they call the local Safe Place licensed agency.
  • Within 20-30 minutes or less, a Safe Place representative will arrive to talk with the youth and, if necessary, provide transportation to the shelter for counseling, support, a place to stay or other resources.
  • Once at the Safe Place agency, counselors meet with the youth and provide support. Family Agency staff makes sure the youth and their families receive the help and professional services they need.

Here are some facts about the national Safe Place program:

  • More than 333,000 youth have been connected to safety and support as a result of Safe Place outreach and education.
  • Safe Place is managed by 132 licensed Safe Place agencies in 37 states and the District of Columbia. 
  • Safe Place serves more than 1,400 communities across the country.
  • There are more than 19,000 designated Safe Place locations nationwide. Locations include convenience stores, libraries, schools, fire stations, social service agencies, public buses and more.

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Did you know there are ways you can get involved right now to help us expand the national safety net for youth? Here’s how:

  • Raise Awareness of Safe Place on social media channels. Below are a few sample posts you may share on your Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram to show support for youth safety:
  • Sample Facebook Post: [Image of Safe Place sign] Have you ever seen this sign? It’s the universal symbol for youth safety. Safe Place is a national outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis. Businesses and organizations display the Safe Place sign which means any young person can go inside, ask for help, and immediately connect to safety and supportive resources. Learn more and get involved: www.nationalsafeplace.org.
  • Sample Instagram Post: Snap an Instagram photo of the Safe Place sign in your community and share it along with the following post:Have you ever seen this sign? It’s the universal symbol for youth safety. Safe Place is a national outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis. Businesses and organizations display the Safe Place sign which means any young person can go inside, ask for help, and immediately connect to safety and supportive resources. Learn more and get involved: www.nationalsafeplace.org @nspnstagram
  • Become a TXT 4 HELP Ambassador. Share information about TXT 4 HELP, a nationwide text-for-support service for youth. How TXT 4 HELP works: Teens simply text the word SAFE and their current location (address, city, state) to 69866 for immediate help. Users will receive information about the closest Safe Place location and / or youth shelter and they will also have the option to text interactively with a professional for more help. It’s quick, easy, safe, and confidential. To learn more about TXT 4 HELP, please visit: http://nationalsafeplace.org/text-4-help/

NSP Week - TXT 4 Help Tuesday

  • Donate to National Safe Place Network. Help us expand the Safe Place program into more communities across the country and connect more youth to supportive resources: http://bit.ly/nspngive

We also offer more advanced opportunities to get involved:

  • Volunteer with a local licensed Safe Place agency or a youth service organization in your community. To find a licensed Safe Place agency near you, please visit www.nationalsafeplace.org and choose your state from the “Find a Safe Place” drop down menu. Not in a Safe Place community? Ask us how you can help introduce Safe Place to a youth service organization in your area. You can also make an impact by volunteering for a youth serving agency in your community.
  • Help start Safe Place in your community. The implementation and ultimate success of the Safe Place program depends upon support from entire communities – from corporations and government leaders to youth service organizations and individuals. Please contact Susan Harmon, Director of Safe Place National Operations, to learn more about what’s involved in implementing Safe Place in your community. Susan may be reached at 502.635.3660 or sharmon@nspnetwork.org.
  • Become a corporate / individual sponsor of National Safe Place Network. Are you interested in helping advance the Safe Place program through a personal or corporate sponsorship? Sponsorships enable NSPN to positively impact more youth, assist young people with services they need, expand Safe Place into new communities, and ultimately build a stronger safety net for youth. If you’re interested in learning more about sponsorship opportunities, please contact Laurie Jackson, NSPN President/CEO at 502.635.3660 or ljackson@nspnetwork.org.

All of that is to say – Happy National Safe Place Week, everyone! Your support strengthens the national safety net for youth, and for that we are grateful!

President Obama’s FY 2017 Budget Released

Written by: Katie Carter, Director of Research, Education & Public Policy, National Safe Place Network

President Obama released his 2017 budget proposal last week. It includes some bright spots in funding for runaway and homeless youth programs and supports for child welfare programs. This is just a proposal though, and serves as a blueprint Congress will use to build its own budget.

Here are some highlights from the proposal:

  • $6 million increase for Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs, including the Basic Center, Street Outreach, and Transitional Living Programs.
  • $2 million to conduct a prevalence study of youth homelessness
  • $11 Billion to address family homelessness through creating of housing vouchers and rapid re-housing assistance
  • $85 million for the education of homeless youth
  • Funds to support demonstration grants to help states implement the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act of 2014

For additional highlights of homeless programs in general, check out a summary from the National Alliance to End Homelessness: http://www.endhomelessness.org/page/-/files/FY%202017%20Budget%20Rundown.pdf

For additional information about programs and funding related specifically to children and young people, check out First Focus’s highlights: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/docs/NSPN/big-investments-in-kids-in-the-presidents-budget.pdf

Miracles in the Face of Many Challenges

Written by: Steve Tarver, President / CEO, YMCA of Greater Louisville

It’s Christmas Eve, after six in the evening. Most of the stores are closed and the streets are starting to get very quiet with little traffic. The daylight hours are few, so it’s dark outside. Cars parked in driveways and lights on in most homes indicate that families are gathering for holiday celebrations.

It’s during this time that I like to stop by our YMCA youth shelter. Like many others, it’s a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year operation. Normally, I will have picked up some gift cards which I like to deliver to be handed out to the staff that are working that night along with one for each child that happens to be spending that evening with us.

This past year (2014), it struck me…Where would these children be without the opportunity to be at our shelter? And further, the same question applies for every day of the year. Not sure why it took so long for this to hit me, but I have thought a lot about it since.

Sometimes I have the opportunity to meet with some of the children that are with us. I am always amazed at their intelligence and resilience. So many of them are miracles that stand up in the face of many challenges. And a caring adult who is simply willing to look at them with respect and see them as an asset can be a life changing opportunity for the child as well as the adult. In my opinion, that’s the real magic of the work done by hundreds of the optimistic and welcoming staff that work with the population of homeless youth in our local YMCA shelter, and places across the country that provide the security, safety, and HOPE for these young people.

Of course, this goes far beyond the Christmas holiday. But the question remains, where would these children be without the network of shelters that serve this population? I wonder also, the extent to which the broader community recognizes (and appreciates) this network. Like the children that find themselves on the street, neglected, or abused, many of those that serve them operate “in the shadows.” Shifting the outlook around youth development from a deficit model to an asset model is a huge story that needs to be told. Can we get this work out of the shadows? Can we shift from the generations-deep paradigm that youth are problems that need to be fixed? Can we create a new custom that would start from a point of seeing the potential of youth without being fearful of high expectations? In my experience, only rarely have high expectations not resulted in high responses. These young people have the capability. I’ve seen it.

Hopefully, there will be more dialogue promoting the asset approach to youth development to more audiences. National Safe Place Network offers a platform: www.nspnetwork.org.

Resources:

The Youth Thrive framework is a strengths-based initiative to examine how all youth can be supported in ways that advance healthy development and well-being and reduce the likelihood or impact of negative life experiences. Click https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/docs/RHYTTAC/youth-thrive_advancing-healthy-adolescent-development-and-well-being%20report.pdf to review the Youth Thrive Advancing Healthy Adolescent Development and Well-Being report. If you’re interested in receiving the Youth Thrive training, please contact National Safe Place Network at info@nspnetwork.org.

Literature Review of Youth Development / Asset Tools: https://nspn.memberclicks.net/assets/docs/RHYTTAC/lit%20review%20of%20youth%20development%20asset%20tools%202002.pdf

Youth Resilience: http://www.cssp.org/reform/child-welfare/youth-thrive/2013/YT_Youth-Resilience.pdf

Protective & Promotive Factors for Healthy Development and Well-Being: http://www.cssp.org/reform/child-welfare/youththrive/body/youth-thrive-protective-promotive-factors.pdf

Developmental Assets: Preparing Young People for Success: http://www.search-institute.org/what-we-study/developmental-assets

Increase Kids’ Strengths by Building Development Assets: http://www.search-institute.org/publications/developmental-assets

To learn how to get involved, please visit www.nspnetwork.org or email National Safe Place Network at info@nspnetwork.org.

The Gift of Giving

Today is #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Observed annually on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving in the U.S. and shopping events on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus their holiday and end-of-year giving. 

As an organization serving youth in crisis and those who provide vital services to this population, NSPN relies on gifts from individuals and corporate partners to ensure an effective system of response for youth across the United States. NSPN utilizes your donated goods, time, and funds to reach youth in need of help and safety. Many youth who seek our services are scared and alone, with no place to go. Others just need someone to listen. If your family is in-tact and the children in your lives have not experienced the fear of being bullied, the scarring that comes with abuse, or the hunger that comes with neglect, you and those children are incredibly fortunate. NSPN is there for each youth and family that experience these and many other issues that make life challenging. Without your contributions, NSPN simply would not have the opportunity to continue this necessary work.

Your dollars make a difference. Here are lives that have been impacted because someone like you cared and made a contribution.

Jayden - Being bullied.jpgJayden, 14, was being bullied by some of his peers at school. Every day as he walked home from school, the bullies would approach him and verbally abuse him and make threats against his life. Not sure where to turn or what to do, Jayden decided to ask for help at the local convenience store which displayed a Safe Place sign. Jayden spoke with counselors at the licensed Safe Place agency and they connected with his school counselor. The situation was handled appropriately and now Jayden feels safer walking home and has since felt comfortable making new friends.

Sarah - girl texting.jpgSarah, 17, utilized TXT 4 HELP (69866) when she realized she was thinking more about how to die than how to live. The professional counselors at the help line made a meaningful connection with Sarah and stayed with her via a call until the authorities reached her for support. Sarah told the counselors, “I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted help living.” Sarah continues to receive the counseling she needs to live a happier and healthier life.

Portrait Of Smiling Teenage Boy

Robert, 13, learned about Safe Place during a school presentation and decided to ask for help. He was suffering physical abuse at the hands of his step father and was living with his older cousins. After school one day, Robert went to the nearest Safe Place, a fire station, and asked for help. After speaking with agency staff, he decided to stay at the youth shelter. His mother left her husband after learning about the abuse. While at the shelter, Robert and his mother established goals and made a commitment to work on their communication with one another. Robert was reunified with his mother and now feels safe in his home.

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Terrance, 16, had never felt accepted at home. Once he “came out” to his family as being gay, his father kicked him out and told him he was “dead” to them. Terrance attempted to find a place to live with friends but no one had the resources to support him while he worked to finish school. He was able to connect to a program of an NSPN member agency that offered independent living resources and support. Terrance now serves on a youth advisory board for that agency and is helping other youth learn how to give back to their community.

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NSPN shared resources on how to train staff and volunteers from a trauma-informed perspective. Staff were appreciative of the training when faced with a particularly challenging youth who was the survivor of years of abuse and neglect. The staff had learned how to support while maintaining safety. They also learned how to listen without feeling the need to have all of the answers. The youth maintained in the program and successfully completed her GED.

Help us continue to make difference in the lives of youth and families. Donate today at: www.tinyurl.com/nspndonation

Ways you can help:

  • Search the web and make purchases using Goodsearch / Goodshop: goodsearch.com/goodshop-invite/nspn-2219407. Each time you search the web using Goodsearch, you raise one cent per search for NSPN. Goodshop will also donate $5 to NSPN after your first purchase of $25 or more. Goodshop continues to make donations for following purchases.
  • Raise awareness! Here are some sample social media posts you can share on your page.

Twitter:

  • [Click here and save the Safe Place logo to your computer: http://bit.ly/1IwCEpD. Then, share it on your social media page with the following message!] Have you seen this sign? It’s the universal symbol for youth safety. Learn more at nationalsafeplace.org
  • I donated to @NSPNtweets! I’m helping to expand the safety net for youth. You can help at tinyurl.com/nspndonation #GivingTuesday

Facebook:

  • [Click here and save the Safe Place logo to your computer: http://bit.ly/1IwCEpD. Then, share it on your social media page with the following message!] Have you seen this sign? It’s the universal symbol for youth safety. @Safe Place is a national outreach and prevention program for youth in crisis. Any youth can go to any location that hangs this sign and seek help. Learn more and get involved: nationalsafeplace.org
  • Need to talk? @Safe Place is there to listen. Safe Place provides TXT 4 HELP, a texting service which gives youth the opportunity to connect with a mental health professional. If you’re a teen in trouble, need help, or just need someone to listen, text SAFE and your current location (address, city, state) to 69866. Within seconds, you will receive a message with the closest Safe Place location and contact number for the local youth shelter. After receiving this message, reply with 2CHAT to connect immediately with a professional. It’s quick, easy, safe and confidential. Learn more at: http://nationalsafeplace.org/text-4-help/
  • I donated to @National Safe Place Network! I’m helping to expand the national safety net for youth. You can help at tinyurl.com/nspndonation.

Avoiding Sparks: On the Road to Independence

By: April Carthorn, RHYTTAC General Specialist, National Safe Place Network

Homelessness is not a choice. Too often a young person’s decision to leave home is the healthiest (and only) option available to them. Some have no choice as they are forced from their homes at the hands of their guardians. Many flee because of issues such as family conflict, sexual orientation, poverty, abuse and neglect, while others may become entangled in substance abuse, gangs, and addiction problems.

Once a young person is homeless, it is very difficult to transition out. Age restrictions prevent many youth from accessing housing / shelters thus making it hard for them to connect with services to help end their homelessness. Transitioning youth also face barriers when trying to get their own housing. Paying rent and bills is virtually impossible with a part-time minimum wage job and many landlords will not rent to youth. Therefore, many youth are forced to remain hidden or move to the streets.

Without proper housing, food, and support systems, the health of a youth experiencing homelessness is at risk. Homeless youth have higher rates of HIV and other STIs and face a greater risk for developing anxiety and depression as compared to housed youth. It is difficult to grow into a healthy adult when you’re unhealthy, poorly nourished, and stressed.

While this paints a bleak picture, we can prevent youth homelessness by making sure young people know where to turn when their home is not safe. Most youth at risk of being homeless leave difficult home situations or age out of foster care to find themselves without a safe sanctuary, something we all need and appreciate. Everyone likes to come home and close the door behind them and feel safe. Many at-risk youth and young adults do not have this opportunity.

While most youth are resilient and want to move forward, there are a number of barriers for someone who is unprepared to be independent. Most youth who have aged out of care or have had to leave home lack experience in independence and therefore need a helping hand up. Searching for safe accommodations can be complicated, stressful, and hopeless if the youth / young adult is suffering from mental health concerns such as depression, stress disorders, substance abuse, and a history of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

What You Can Do To Help Avoid the Sparks:

Many youth / young adults ages 18-24 tend to take increased risk to figure out which career, educational, and financial path they want to pursue. Being a supportive ally can help foster a positive transition into adulthood and provide young people a chance to explore opportunities, develop financial independence, and create healthy, lifelong relationships.

  • Empower youth to make decisions. Youth / young adults have often been left out of critical decisions made about their lives. It is important to allow the young person take charge of his or her own future while you listen, help guide, and support. During daily interactions, provide youth with frequent opportunities to make decisions and to learn from consequences, both positive and negative.
  • Communicate high expectations. Far too often, youth / young adults have heard more about their limitations than about what they can achieve. Send positive messages about future possibilities. Offer forward-looking comments into everyday conversation. For example, use phrases such as “when you go on to college…” or “when you start your own business…” as opposed to phrases like “if you go to college.”
  • Start early. Find ways to introduce important concepts to younger youth. For example, talk with a pre-teens about the value of education and saving for long-term goals.
  • Decrease control and increase youth responsibilities gradually. While allowing youth to make choices, be clear about boundaries. Involve youth in setting rules and establishing appropriate consequences related to their behavior. Allow young people to learn and practice adult life skills with your support.
  • Help to identify at least one reliable, caring adult in a young person’s life who can serve as a stable, ongoing connection and can provide support pre-and-post-transition into adulthood.
  • Encourage the development of positive peer support networks through participation in constructive group activities with others who share similar likes and experiences.
  • Be an effective coach who listens, advises, and provides youth / young adults with opportunities to learn and practice new skills.  Do not shoot down their ideas.
  • Advocate for youth rights as they relate to employment, housing, education, medical and mental health care, court proceedings, and social needs.
  • Remind young people of their responsibilities related to self commitment, citizenship, character, and fairness and generosity toward others.
  • Recognize successes and celebrate ALL achievements and milestones on the path to adulthood.

Launched Today: Voices of Youth Count

VoYC logo

NSPN is pleased to announce the launch of Voices of Youth Count – http://www.voicesofyouthcount.org/.

Voices of Youth Count, led by Chapin Hall in collaboration with NSPN and partners across the country, seeks both a reliable national estimate of youth homelessness and a clearer picture of what it means to be young and homeless in America today. All efforts are aimed at finding and widely sharing solutions to preventing and ending youth homelessness.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has spoken to the need to fill gaps in our knowledge about this highly vulnerable group, stating “…we know too little about the scale and nature of youth homelessness.”

Chapin Hall and its partners are ready to take on that challenge.

Beginning in mid-2015 through 2017, Voices of Youth Count will collect original data by interviewing and surveying youth and those around them, conducting quantitative analyses, rigorously examining the effectiveness of investments we are making as a country, analyzing existing federal, state, and local policies, and connecting findings to the existing knowledge base.

Evidence and recommendations will be purposefully linked to current local, state, and federal policy efforts with an eye on authorizing legislation, how programs are structured and funded, and the way in which services are delivered.

NSPN is excited to join Chapin Hall, myriad national and local advocates, community providers of youth services, philanthropists, policymakers, and youth in this effort. As the project evolves, learning will be shared on http://www.voicesofyouthcount.org/

Thank you for taking time to learn about this innovative research effort. We hope you will join NSPN on this journey of learning.

*Check out the official Voices of Youth Count launch video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ks6SwFCX-yM 

Pride Isn’t an End. It’s a Beginning.

By: Jama Shelton, LMSW, PhD, Deputy Executive Director for True Colors Fund

Pride Month is not only an opportunity for homeless youth programs to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) young people with whom they work, it’s also a time for youth-serving agencies to come out as visible allies of all young people. Sometimes youth serving organizations may not celebrate Pride Month if they think it isn’t relevant to the youth within their programs. Even if you aren’t aware of any LGBT identified youth (or youth who may be questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity) within your programs, chances are, they’re there! In fact, 99% of the service providers we surveyed for our Serving Our Youth Report said they work with LGBT youth in their homeless youth programs. Less than one percent reported not working with LGBT youth. Pride Month is a perfect opportunity to let these young people know that you see them, stand with them, and support them.

Pride Month is a time to be, well… proud! It’s a time to celebrate the accomplishments of LGBT people and communities. And we’ve had no lack of accomplishments lately! Laverne Cox continues to excel at her craft, while also raising awareness about the unjust treatment of transgender people, particularly transgender women of color, in our country. Over the past few months, Caitlyn Jenner’s decision to live as her true self has made headlines worldwide, and introduced the topic of transgender identity to a whole new audience. Let us be proud of and celebrate these incredible women!

Let us also recognize that many LGBT young people struggle to survive in families and communities that are not yet able to accept or celebrate them. According to service providers we surveyed, LGBT youth continue to be overrepresented within the population of youth experiencing homelessness, and identity-based family rejection continues to be the primary reason for their homelessness. While Laverne and Caitlyn are making their ways into households all over the world via mainstream media, transgender youth are being forced out of their homes and face great difficulty finding adequate support once on the street.

While updating our report this year, we asked service providers about their experiences working with transgender youth separately from their experiences with cisgender LGB youth in order to better understand how to support transgender youth. Here are some of the key findings from the report:

  • Organizational staff report average increases in the proportion of LGBT youth they serve. This change is higher for transgender youth.
  • Service providers were more likely to report that transgender youth experience homelessness for longer periods of time than cisgender LGB youth.
  • Transgender youth were estimated to have experienced bullying, family rejection, and physical and sexual abuse at higher rates than their LGB counterparts.
  • The number one need for LGBT youth experiencing homelessness, as identified by providers, was housing. Providers also identified transition-related support as a critical need for transgender youth. Transition-related supports include access to legal support, name/gender marker change, access to healthcare specific to transgender youth, access to hormones, and emotional support.

So why am I bringing this up during Pride Month, a time when celebrations of LGBT identity abound? Because not all LGBT community members are accepted, much less celebrated, in their families and in their communities. This June, I challenge you not only to celebrate, but also to educate within your organizations and communities. Increasing visibility is important, but let’s not stop there. It’s an important first step in creating a safe and inclusive society, but when Pride Month is over and the parades have ended, what will have changed for the LGBT youth experiencing homelessness in your community?

This June, I am proud to work alongside many of you in communities around the country as you commit to making your programs and services safe and affirming for all youth. I encourage you to celebrate the LGBT youth you serve not only during the month of June, but all year. If you’d like suggestions on how to do that, contact us at the True Colors Fund. We’re happy to help!

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015

True Colors Fund, National Safe Place Network NSPNsights Blog, Pride Month 2015