2020 Greater Los Angeles Youth Count data show an increase in permanent housing placements despite increase in youth homelessness.
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LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) provided an update on the youth homeless system, including the release of its 2020 Greater Los Angeles Youth Homeless Count data on Thursday.
This year’s count – conducted from January 22-31, 2020 – showed that 4,775 youth were experiencing homelessness throughout the Los Angeles County, a 19% increase over the previous year. This includes 18-24-year-old Transition Aged Youth (TAY), unaccompanied minors, and family households with TAY heads of households and their children.
LA County’s youth homeless population has unique needs and characteristics when compared to the overall homeless population. They are more likely to be female, Black, or Latinx. They are more likely to report being LGBT and less likely to have a substance abuse issue or mental illness. Youth also suffer from not having a job or housing history, a support system, or positive adult relationships.
Because the youth homeless population has unique needs, the system that LAHSA and our providers are building to help youth has unique characteristics.
Three years into the establishment of the groundbreaking youth coordinated entry system that uses trauma‐informed services, Los Angeles County is working more effectively than ever to help more youths than ever before:
4,229 youth newly entered the Coordinated Entry System in 2019
The number of youth supported through homelessness prevention services rose from 71 before Measure H to 311 last year.
2,134 youth moved into permanent housing placements last year, up 4% from 2018.
3,687 youth were enrolled in Interim Housing in 2019 (17% increase over 2018)
“Despite the fact that we’ve made gains in serving homeless youth, it’s unacceptable that so many youths are falling into homelessness in LA,” LAHSA Executive Director Heidi Marston said. “The key to preventing young people from reaching the point where they require our services is to continue to the work of bringing together the different systems that touch their lives—from the foster system and probation to workforce development.”
In addition to the long-term system improvements, LAHSA has moved swiftly to continue to serve the youth population safely through Recovery Bridge – a permanent supportive housing bridge model available for youth who are vulnerable to COVID-19, TAY Access Center to provide Tier 1 assessments for COVID-vulnerable TAY, Campus Peer Navigators and Educational Coordinators working remotely, and an expansion of Rapid Rehousing and employment programs.
Similar to the overall homeless count results release in June, the effects of systemic racism continue to have pronounced effects on Black and Brown youth. Youth experiencing homelessness are more likely to be Black (38%) and Latino (43%) than the overall population of people experiencing homelessness (34% and 36% respectively). Only 15% of youths experiencing homelessness are white.
Last year the count was improved by recruiting youth with lived experience of homelessness to conduct the survey. This year, that approach continued, supported by a shortened survey that reduced the burden on service providers. This year’s survey took 10 minutes replacing a 20-30 minute survey from last year, resulting in the same accuracy of data and a reduced burden on service providers.
Splitting out questions from last year’s survey created a Youth Count Descriptive Survey to collect subpopulation information like veteran and chronic household status. USC collaborated with 16 sites to administer the surveys.
“The effectiveness of our Youth Count this past year would not have been possible without the advocacy by our community of youth service providers, volunteers, and young people to ensure the experience of unsheltered youth are accurately represented,” USC’s Youth Count Project Administrator Nicole Wilson said. “We had our youth staff championing for late night shifts, volunteers willing to dedicate their weekends, and most importantly folks that truly wanted to give voice to the need for youth specific resources and services in our city.”
The count has achieved a new level of specificity on substance use. A change of wording in the survey led more who reported “difficulties with” drug or alcohol use. As a result, the number of young people reporting substance abuse increased by 163% to 670, a new baseline.
Methodological improvements have also set new baselines for chronic homelessness. Because substance abuse is a criterion of the HUD definition of chronic homelessness, the increased number of those reporting substance abuse also increased the number of those who are considered chronically homeless. 935 youth are experiencing chronic homelessness.
New programs brought online this year hold out promise of reaching and housing more youth more effectively. The Host Homes program launched in multiple communities for the first time in Spring 2019, inviting community members to open up available rooms as a short-term interim housing option for youth experiencing homelessness while connecting them to case management. Service providers collect referrals and pair them with youth after surveys and interviews in a trauma informed, safety-first program.
One in five community college students experience housing insecurity. As of the end of 2019, Campus Peer Navigators were co-located at 21 community colleges to improve connections between students experiencing homelessness and the Youth CES. Navigators continue to receive referrals throughout COVID and provide resources and referrals. The system works with the Higher Ed and Homelessness Work Group to identify strategies to create direct referral linkages to the CES.
As of the end of 2019, DCFS/Probation Liaisons were established to connect youth in the foster and probation systems with housing options through regional level referrals upon exit of these systems. This program was established to address the high intersection between child welfare, youth criminal justice, and homelessness. Before this program, it was up to the young person to navigate the complex system on their own. This is a key prevention strategy to curb inflow and lower homelessness among this youth by bringing housing expertise into the two biggest drivers of homelessness, the foster care and justice systems.
“While our homelessness response system for youth has significantly grown its capacity in recent years to rapidly house thousands of participants each year, youth are falling into homelessness at a faster rate than we’ve ever seen in Los Angeles, and most acutely youth of color and LGBTQ youth,” William Lehman, LAHSA senior manager in system integration, said. “In addition to further scaling the capacity of for youth homelessness system with an equity lens, it’s imperative that we simultaneously strengthen existing coordination and forge new alignment across the parallel systems that play pivotal roles in the short and long term stability of LA’s young people including child welfare, juvenile justice, education and workforce development.”