INTRODUCTION & OVERVIEW
No young person should find themselves without a safe and stable place to call home. Yet, an estimated 4.2 million young people will likely face homelessness this year in the U.S. and most of them will be Black, Brown, and/or LGBTQ+. The need to take bold actions to end youth homelessness is increasingly urgent as we grapple with the impacts of the pandemic, and state laws threatening the well-being of LGTBQ+ young people, while continuing to dismantle white supremacy as a nation.
Ending youth homelessness requires that we make it rare, BRIEF, and one time.
In the second of three policy briefs to explore solutions that end youth homelessness, this document focuses on what it takes to quickly house young people experiencing homelessness, and deliver the services necessary to create community, resilience, and opportunity.
For nearly 40 years, Larkin Street Youth Services has served 78,000 young people with programs designed to empower them to take control of their lives and reach their potential. But no single organization can create impact alone. Young people require a wider ecosystem of stakeholders committed to making bold and necessary changes at the national, state, and local levels.
We know that coordinated, sector-wide efforts make a difference when fueled by sound policies and strategic investment. We applaud the historic investments in youth homelessness at the local and state level, and we maintain hope that we make continued progress that builds on the 14% decline in San Francisco’s youth homelessness count between 2017 and 2020. This progress corresponds directly to the collective action of young people, policymakers, advocates, and service providers working together to sustain and expand housing opportunities for youth. We need to keep going in this direction.
We must continue to build a youth homelessness response system that centers the expertise of young people with lived experience, and we must double down on the essential work of building community with and for young people. Housing ends homelessness, but it requires more than a diverse housing portfolio to ensure young people thrive. Housing must go beyond being a place where young people CAN live and function but also a place where they WANT to be in community with their peers and staff members.
“Effective programming for youth experiencing homelessness is as much about the choice and agency of young people as it is about services provided. Centering clients’ needs and visions for their lives through partnership is how young people effectively move on from life on the street and into a life of their dreams.” – Sherilyn Adams
Any effort to end youth homelessness must start with the young people themselves. In the development of this policy brief, and in the work we do every day, Larkin Street listens to youth and partners with them in our local, state, and national advocacy agendas. Together, and led by youth, we know that ending youth homelessness is possible.