Last year, the L.A. Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) asked Shelter Partnership to be the lead consultant to prepare an application to the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). Shelter Partnership was thrilled to learn in September 2021 that L.A. had been selected for the largest award in the country of $15 million and is one of only 33 grantees nationwide. This was LAHSA’s first successful application after three previous attempts and the first time Shelter Partnership was the lead consultant on the project.
The grant, which is administered by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), requires awarded communities to develop comprehensive plans to end youth homelessness. Unlike many planning processes, however, YHDP requires those most impacted – currently or formerly homeless youth – to be decision-makers in this process, identifying system needs, designing new programs and partnerships to address the needs, and reviewing and approving proposals by local service providers to implement new programs. Critically, they will be paid for sharing their expertise.
From November through April 2022, LAHSA will convene government officials, community stakeholders, and youth with lived experience to write a blueprint of our community’s approach to ending youth homelessness called a Coordinated Community Plan (CCP). LAHSA has asked Shelter Partnership to remain engaged throughout the development and implementation of the CCP.
This opportunity is sorely needed for L.A. where youth homelessness has become a widespread problem. It was estimated that 4,775 youth (defined here as individuals younger than 25 years old) were experiencing homelessness in the region in January 2020, up from 3,926 youth a year earlier. Of these youth, many are part of historically underserved and discriminated against populations – more than 80% identify as Black or Latinx, 20% identify as LGBTQ+, and 36% identify as female. Many youth have also been failed by multiple systems, with over half of youth in the homeless services system reporting previous contact with Foster Care and/or Probation.
Unique from adult homelessness, youth homelessness requires its own developmentally-appropriate solutions. YHDP will enable our community to think beyond the adult homeless system one-size-fits-all model that has been traditionally employed, allowing for the creation of tailor-made programs like direct cash assistance, which is similar to guaranteed basic income, or new housing models for LGBTQ+ youth and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. Most other government funding sources do not allow for this flexibility to innovate.
While YHDP is just one grant among many assisting youth who are experiencing homelessness in L.A., we hope it will play an outsized role in advancing a unified strategy to prevent and end youth homelessness that will be influential for years to come. Shelter Partnership is proud of the role we played in securing this historic investment for L.A.