Chronically homeless individuals have a mental disability, physical disability, or drug dependency and have experienced extensive periods without adequate or stable shelter. Chronically homeless individuals require stable housing and support services to facilitate their integration into a community.
Homeless youth, also called unaccompanied youth, are defined by the Mckinney-Vento Act as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” These youth, aged 15-24, have been separated from their families or guardians. They do not have serious mental health or other issues that require long-term residential care. Youth homelessness programs provide extensive outreach, proactive family reconciliation programs, and youth-centered transitional living programs.
Source: Root Cause
Housing first is the recommended approach to end chronic homelessness. This approach provides permanent and independent housing as well as support services. Housing first is based on consumer choice and harm reduction, meaning that participation in mental health treatment and sobriety are not strictly required, but encouraged. The core components of housing first are:
Youth homelessness programs vary widely; SIR has found that high quality programs have the following components:
While the issue as a whole can be evaluated using the total number of chronically homeless individuals, successful housing-first programs can be measured by a number of indicators. These include stabilization rate, percent of individuals who are enrolled in government programs (e.g., Medicaid, SSI), and consumer satisfaction.
Programs should track indicators in three outcome areas: housing stability, educational attainment, and employment retention. These are considered the most important basic steps on the path to self-sufficient adulthood. Appropriate indicators may vary for different types of programs, and it is important for interested donors to have a conversation with organizations regarding how they track the success of their programs as they relate to participant outcomes. Below are examples of indicators.
In addition to these three outcomes, other more subjective outcomes, such as stability and level of social support, are difficult to measure, and experts are working to develop metrics. More funding is needed to enable the field to better evaluate homeless youth programs.
Social Impact Research (Root Cause) has not yet analyzed housing-first organizations or organizations that provide youth career development programs. Donors can evaluate housing-first organizations and youth career development programs independently using Social Impact Research's guide to giving.
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