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LA County’s Youth Homeless System Increases Services, Speed, and Results for Vulnerable Population with Unique Needs
LA's homeless service system has expanded specialized services and more than doubled the number of youth aged 18-24 placed into housing each year, but economic pressures, fragile social networks continue to push more youth into homelessness
View the presentation
View the key facts
View the Youth Count results
Video spotlight on youth homelessness
Los Angeles, CA (July 31, 2019)—Youth experiencing homelessness have a special set of needs, and Los Angeles County’s youth homeless system is providing specialized programs that help homeless youth get their lives back on track. At a briefing today at the LA LGBT Center about youth homelessness, leaders highlighted how this system of trauma-informed services is helping more youth than ever move out of homelessness and into housing—and there's much more work to do.
“We are building a more collaborative, more effective, more responsive and more preventative system to serve youth experiencing homelessness,” said Peter Lynn, LAHSA’s executive director. “The last three years have seen us work closer with the systems whose shortcomings feed youth homelessness—such as criminal justice and the foster system—as well as those that help young people out of homelessness—such as education and workforce development. The increased effectiveness shows in our increase in housing placements, and we are just getting started.”
Two years into the 10-year investments from Measure H, LA County’s homeless services system is preventing more than four times as many youth from falling into homelessness each year, engaging more than eight times as many youth through outreach teams, and moving more than twice as many youth into permanent housing. We have added 184 transitional housing beds (for a total of more than 700) and more than 500 rapid rehousing slots (to 1,638) since 2017.
“Doing this work, some days there are really good stories about someone getting off the streets, into housing, and that feels so good,” said Travis Crown, a peer advocate at the LA LGBT Center and a member of LAHSA’s youth advisory board, the Homeless Youth Forum of Los Angeles (HYFLA). “But also a lot of times it’s back and forth, trying to get housing and there isn’t space available. My hope is that our community will realize that the only way out of this crisis is to build more housing.”
This year’s Greater LA Homeless Count showed that more than 4,000 transition age youth (ages 18-24) experience homelessness on any given night in LA County, a 22% increase over the previous year. LAHSA’s data team estimates nearly 6,700 youth became homeless over the course of 2018—a rate of inflow even higher than that for adults.
The Homeless Count reveals some stark differences between the demographics of youth and adults. Youth are more likely to experience domestic or intimate partner violence, are more likely to have previously experienced homelessness, and are more likely to be Black.
“No one chooses to be homeless,” said Ely Sepulveda, Youth Coordinated Entry System regional coordinator, Safe Place for Youth. “There are many institutional failures and societal failures that push people into this situation—racism, poverty, family relationships, affordability, sexual orientation. These are societal breakdowns and we need to work together to address them and build a healthier, more equitable society.”
More than 90% of youth cite fragile social networks as a cause of their homelessness, which demonstrates the importance of LA’s family strengthening programs. Around a third exited the foster care system, and around 60% have been involved in the justice system, which highlights the need for specialized support to overcome barriers to housing and self-sufficiency.
“All of us here today are fighting hard every day. But sometimes I am really discouraged by what I see in the community,” said Sage Johnson, a peer advocate at the LGBT Center and HYFLA member. “We have so many people waiting for housing, but landlords are refusing to take their Section 8 vouchers. Communities are blocking shelters from being built in their neighborhood and blocking new housing. They’re complaining about the problem, and then they’re blocking the solution. We need to come together as a community. We need you all to step up.”
Community members can help by participating in youth-specific housing programs, saying “yes” to more interim and supportive housing in their neighborhoods, advocating for expanded state and federal funding for affordable housing and homeless services, and volunteering with local homeless youth service agencies.
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The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority is a joint powers authority of the city and county of Los Angeles, created in 1993 to address the problem of homelessness in Los Angeles County. LAHSA is the lead agency in the HUD-funded Los Angeles Continuum of Care, and coordinates and manages $400 million annually in federal, state, county, and city funds for programs providing shelter, housing, and services to people experiencing homelessness.
Youth Coordinated Entry System Lead Service Providers
SPA 1: Antelope Valley
SPA 2: San Fernando Valley
Village Family Services
SPA 3: San Gabriel Valley
Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services
SPA 4: Metro Los Angeles
Los Angeles LGBT Center
SPA 5: West Los Angeles
Safe Place for Youth
SPA 6: South Los Angeles
Coalition for Responsible Community Development
SPA 7: East Los Angeles
SPA 8: South Bay/Harbor
Harbor Interfaith Services, Inc.