Overview – Connecticut Homeless Youth Count
Youth homelessness presents significant challenges to schools, providers and state agencies. Conventional methodologies for collecting data on this sub-population are ineffective because homeless youth are less accessible than their adult counterparts, difficult to track down, and often unwilling to talk to the adult volunteers who seek to engage them. As a consequence, we have traditionally had a very poor understanding of the scale of the issue and consequently have difficulty effectively serving the needs of this population. A subgroup of the Reaching Home Homeless Youth Workgroup evaluated efforts around the country to count homeless youth, and designed a state count of homeless youth based on the emerging best practices and lessons learned from other communities.
To obtain an accurate picture of the scale of youth homelessness in Connecticut, CCEH executed the CT Youth Count using the following methods:
- Basic State Count: CCEH conducted a coordinated, standardized count across the state from January 19th through February 18th, 2015. Statewide training of provider-based leaders in each region was conducted to assist them in training others to promote the count in their area. This count used a survey and distribution model deployed in a wide variety of service settings used by youth (including soup kitchens, shelters, mental health centers, and libraries). The CT Youth Count utilized a youth-friendly survey to collect data on youth up to the age of 24 who are experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
- Special Focus Areas: In seven selected areas, CCEH conducted an expanded project that included: the same approach as above but with added resources including incentives, focus groups, and peer to peer outreach, and also a peer-based estimation project in local high schools. In the Focus Areas, we included a school-based estimation project which consisted of a one-page survey to all students in grades 9-12 asking students for information about peers, friends and acquaintances who are unstably housed or homeless. The survey was modeled on national best practices.
Outcome: The count provided reliable information indicating the number of youth across Connecticut who experience homelessness, and – equally important – an understanding of the patterns and characteristics of this population. Characteristics such as: how long episodes of youth homelessness last, number of episodes of homelessness, social networks, demographic information, systems engagement, are all outlined in the full CT Counts report available on www.cceh.org.
Data from this effort will be used in the Opening Doors for Youth Plan developed and implemented by Reaching Home Campaign’s Homeless Youth Workgroup. The Opening Doors for Youth Plan is an action plan to provide all Connecticut youth and young adults with safe, stable homes and opportunities and can be found here.