For the second consecutive year, 824 homeless or unstably housed young people ages 12 to 25 were identified during Count Us In—All Home’s annual youth-specific point-in-time (PIT) count. This number includes 131 young people who were unsheltered at the time of the count on January 27, compared to 133 last year. The fact that the total number of homeless or unstably housed young people did not increase during the past year, a time of great challenges related to homelessness in our community, is notable.
“The stability of these numbers is a testament to the work our community has done to identify and support homeless youth, but our work is not done,” said All Home Director Mark Putnam. “Homelessness in King County is in a state of emergency and every homeless young person we help today is one less at risk of becoming a homeless adult. In the coming year, All Home and its partners will increase our prevention efforts and work with upstream systems to make youth homelessness more rare, pilot new housing and services to make youth homelessness brief, and improve education and employment opportunities to ensure that homelessness is a one-time occurrence.”
Count Us In occurs alongside the community’s One Night Count, an annual PIT count of people experiencing homelessness. Count Us In allows for a deeper dive into the scope of youth and young adult homelessness to inform planning and services to meet the needs of this unique population. The effort is regarded as one of the largest youth-specific PIT counts in the country, with survey data collected at more than 70 sites throughout Seattle-King County and supplemented by data from the regional Homeless Management Information System.
Mary Steele, Executive Director of New Horizons Ministries, one of the Count Us In partner sites, said “New Horizons worked with All Home and the United Way of King County to host a Community Resource Exchange on the day of Count Us In, so that youth being counted could also receive basic services like haircuts, dental care, and referrals to other programs. We were able to serve almost 100 young people who stay in our shelter and attend our drop in programs regularly, as well as young people who aren’t already involved in our programs. The line for haircuts lasted all day and many participants took advantage of a fresh look to meet with prospective employers and job training programs.”
In addition to defining the scope of youth homelessness in King County, Count Us In results paint a clear picture of who these young people are and where they come from. Homeless or unstably housed youth and young adults were identified in nearly every zip code in the county. They are disproportionately Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer (27 percent) and youth of color (53 percent)—two populations prioritized in All Home’s work on youth homelessness.
Similarly, the data shows opportunities for prevention and early intervention. Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of youth surveyed have been in foster care, 38 percent are enrolled in school, and roughly half (49 percent) have encountered the criminal justice system. Each of these touch-points will play an increasingly important role as All Home looks to complement crisis response services with a concerted effort to prevent young people from falling into crisis in the first place. In addition, King County’s Best Starts for Kids levy includes $19 million for a Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative, providing a new opportunity to prevent homelessness in this population.
Seattle-King County will strengthen its work to understand the needs of homeless young people in the coming months, having been selected as one of 22 partner communities in a new national study led by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. The study—dubbed Voices of Youth Count—will conduct an additional youth PIT count and surveys later this year at each of its study locations. The results will inform national best practices on youth homelessness data collection methods and enable a national estimate of youth homelessness.
“King County has been a leader in recognizing the importance of having reliable data to end youth homelessness,” said Bryan Samuels, Executive Director of Chapin Hall. “By participating in Voices of Youth Count – and using new ways to count and understand the experiences of homeless youth – King County both will contribute to and benefit from the Voices of Youth Count national learning community. Together we will progress toward an effective, coordinated national and regional response to end the cycle of youth homelessness.”
Detailed results of the count are available in the Count Us In 2016 report.