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According to StandUp for Kids, a national non-profit organization dedicated to ending the cycle of youth homelessness in local communities, children make up 27% of the U.S. homeless population.
A public awareness campaign called "Homeless Youth Awareness Month" takes place in November to shine a light on the often-invisible realities of homeless and runaway youth. This is a chance to draw attention to the resources offered nationwide to assist youth in need. Through the campaign, individuals, groups, and communities are encouraged to take initiative and contribute to the fight against youth homelessness.
Since November 2007, this month has been designated as Homeless Youth Awareness Month, in which organizations nationwide highlight their initiatives to prevent youth homelessness. Now, the Governor’s Office of Governor Jared Polis, alongside the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), will recognize this campaign and proclaim November 2022 as Homeless Youth Awareness and Action Month in Colorado.
Youth Experiencing Homelessness in Colorado
Public schools in the U.S. recognized 1.3M children and youth who were homeless during the 2020–2021 academic year. During this time period, Colorado public schools identified more than 15,300 students without a secure place to call home, and 1,678 of them were classified as unaccompanied minors. An unaccompanied minor is defined as a child or youth who is not in the physical custody of a parent or legal guardian and does not have a set, regular, and suitable place to stay at night.
The State of Colorado is actively addressing these issues, and as part of this effort, it extended the Next Step 2-Generation Program, a collaboration between school districts and housing service providers that aims to make homelessness among families with school-age children rare and brief.
This rapid-rehousing and homelessness prevention program is a short- to medium-term housing intervention created to assist students and their families in leaving or preventing homelessness as soon as possible, returning to communal living, and avoiding experiencing homelessness again. The program accomplishes this by offering case management, interim rent subsidies, and move-in assistance. Like other programs within the State, ‘Housing First’ is a core component.
Additionally, the Division of Housing’s (DOH’s) Office of Homeless Youth Services (OHYS) awarded funding in 2021 to three groups, the Shiloh House, the Matthews House, and Karis, that oversaw Host Homes programs in northern, western, and southwest Colorado. Young people who are homeless can find temporary shelter through Host Homes. With the help of this program, young people can make decisions regarding housing, receive peer support, and access resources in a welcoming, temporary, safe environment. It gives local communities a chance to get engaged in helping youth experiencing homelessness, gives them a chance to build up supportive networks in their neighborhoods, and expands the options for shelter in regions with a shortage of youth shelters. The Division of Housing (DOH) and the Office of Homeless Youth Services (OHYS) awarded additional funding to various youth organizations for other projects, as well, including housing voucher programs and supportive services projects.
The Division of Housing (DOH) and the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) contributed funds earlier this year to the building of 2700 Wewatta, a supportive housing project in Denver developed through a collaboration between Rivet Development Partners and TGTHR. The project is funded by Project-Based Vouchers from DOH and will include 56 units for young people who are at risk of, currently experiencing, or have aged out of the child welfare system.
“In addition to the challenges of meeting basic needs and carrying the mental stressors brought on by housing instability, youth who experience homelessness frequently encounter barriers to housing, employment, health care, and education. To improve care and expand access to high-quality services and housing for youth in America, our communities must be made aware of the extent and gravity of the problem and help create the solutions needed.” Kristin Toombs, Director of the Office of Homeless Initiatives
With the purpose of increasing awareness and furthering efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness - people, organizations, and communities around the country are urged to collaborate throughout the month of November.
Here are some ways to get involved:
- Partner or volunteer with a nonprofit organization that serves youth facing homelessness
- Utilize the Youth Move CO Toolkit
- Share Nation Homeless Youth Awareness materials on social media and use the hashtag #cohomelessyouthawareness #NHYPM #NRPM2022
- Review the Making Homelessness History Playbook
- Stay up-to-date on funding opportunities through the Division of Housing (DOH) by visiting the Open Request for Applications (RFA) and Notice of Funding Availabilities (NOFA) webpage