Thanks, what's next, and our planning schedule

Thanks to the 80 or so of you who came out for our planning kick-off meeting on Friday. You came from lots of different parts of our community—youth, K-12 schools, colleges, state agencies, community organizations, early childhood educators, advocates, police, service providers, volunteers, employment providers, and municipalities. Some of you helped put our YHDP application together and some are new partners. All together, this is certainly a group that can get things done!

The meeting was a chance to review where we’ve been, talk about what it means to be a YHDP site, think about why we are doing this work, and hear from young people about their dreams and their partnership with us in this work.

One of our activities was each of us rreflecting on why this work is important. Here’s some of what you said:

I am passionate about this work because I want teens and young adults to have every opportunity to securely grow in their light and passion.

This work is important because it’s outrageous to think of a youth or young adult without stable housing.

I am passionate about this work because a collaboration as large and broad as this has the potential to make a significant impact. This age and time is a key juncture for youth and young adults and support is crucial.

Many comments reflect the need for us to take a system approach, with strong partnerships across the many people and agencies in the room.

Defining Our Community Vision

As we begin developing our coordinated community plan to prevent and end youth homelessness, we’ll be defining our vision. The comments about the importance of this work already begin to point to what our vision will encompass. Here’s a visual representation of the words that came up most in all of your comments:

wordcloud+why+important.jpg

A steering committee has been guiding this planning process—many of whom spoke at Friday’s meeting. This committee will take a first turn at crafting your words into a community vision that we’ll share back with you for feedback and further refinement.

Upcoming Planning Sessions and Meetings

We have three upcoming planning sessions, and we hope that you will join one or more sessions to work on creating our community plan. Here are the topics, dates and locatiions:

HOUSING: November 8, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, UMass Springfield, Tower Square, 1500 Main St., Springfield

PERMANENT CONNECTIONS, November 22, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, The Innovation Center, 276 Bridge St., Springfield

EDUCATION/EMPLOYMENT, December 13, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, The Innovation Center, 276 Bridge St., Springfield

In addition to these planning sessions, we are scheduling meetings to explore various topics and subpopulations in more depth. These will be announced on this blog. A next one that is coming up is a focused conversation about youth and human trafficking, which will take place at the meeting of the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee of the Western Mass Network to End Homelessness. That meeting will be Oct. 24, 9:30-11 am at Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center, Room 303.

The next Youth Action Board (YAB) meeting will be Thursday, October 24, 4-5 pm at the Imppact Center, 41 Taylor St., Springfield. (This one is for youth and young adults only.)



Gerry McCafferty
Youth homelessness in Hampden County

Here’s what we know:

  • On any given night, there are more than 120 unaccompanied youth and young adults (YYA) under age 25 in shelters or on the streets in Hampden County

  • Over the course of a year, it’s more than 500 young people

  • Most YYA experiencing homelessness typically don’t seek services, so those numbers reflect just a portion of a much larger problem

Some YYA have much higher risk of homelessness than others. These include:

  • YYA of color - 87% of Hampden County homeless YYA are Latinx, Black, or multi-racial.

  • YYA with foster care experience - 31% of Hampden County YYA have been in foster care.

  • Pregnant and parenting YYA - more than half of YYA accessing shelter over the course of a year are parenting, and the children of these YYA add another 350 infants and toddlers accessing our shelters each year.

  • LGBTQ YYA - at least 13% of Hampden County homeless YYA are LGBTQ, but studies tell us the percentage is probably much higher.

In Hamden County, the average age at which young people first experience homelessness is 17.4, but among those who do seek services, they do not usually access the system until they are 18 or older.

To learn more about youth homelessness in Hampden County, read the needs assessment posted on this website. To learn more about youth homelessness, read Missed Opportunities, Youth Homelessness in America , which describes the current state of understanding of the problem.

As the Missed Opportunities report reminds us:

Adolescence and young adulthood represent a key developmental window. Every day of housing instability represents missed opportunities to support healthy development and transitions to productive adulthood.

There is a particular urgency to addressing the needs of young people experiencing housing instability. We are focused and committed to improving our systemic response to this population.

I hope you will join us this Friday, October 11, 2019 to learn more and work with us to create our coordinated community plan to prevent and end youth homelessness. Click to register.

Gerry McCafferty
Help us create the plan: join us on Oct. 11

As part of YHDP, we are engaging in a planning process over the next several months to design the system to support unaccompanied young people 13-24 to have safe and stable housing as they transition to adulthood and self-sufficiency. We’ll work directly with youth to understand their needs and how we can meet them, and we’ll bring together community partners to both to design new programs and also weave together existing programs to make them most effective and responsive.

The plan is required for us to be able to access the YHDP $2.4 million funds, but it’s also a great opportunity for us to come together coordinate our programs and outcomes and to identify gaps and create strategies to fill them.

We’re kicking off the planning process October 11, 10 am to noon, at the Innovation Center, 276 Bridge St., Springfield, MA 01103. Join us!

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/preventing-and-ending-youth-homelessness-next-steps-tickets-74607678575

Our plan will focus of 4 core outcomes for youth and young adults:

  • Stable Housing

  • Permanent Connections

  • Education/Employment

  • Social-emotional well-being

On October 11, we will recap our community needs assessment, hear from youth, define our goals, and describe the planning process and how to be part of it.

We hope you’ll be there!

Gerry McCafferty
What's YDHP?

YHDP is the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, a federal initiative designed to reduce the number of youth under 25 experiencing homelessness. In August 2019, Springield-Hampden County was selected as one of 23 YHDP sites in the third round of the project.

Hampden County’s selection comes with an award of $2.4 million, but our community is unable to access the funds right away.

The first step for YHDP communities is to work with youth, child welfare agencies, and other community partners to create a comprehensive community plan to end youth homelessness. The plan will identify community-wide strategies as well as the programs the community wants to create with the new funds. As we begin planning, we can review Coordinated Community Plans created by previous YHDP communities.

Once our plan is created and approved by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we can select local providers to operate the new programs, and those agencies will be able to access the $2.4 million, which is for two years of funding. After the two years, the new programs can be reviewed on an annual basis.

Our selection as a YHDP community is a great opportunity, first to dramatically redesign our system of services that respond to youth with housing instability, but also to fund the housing and service programs that we need to be effective.

Gerry McCafferty
Welcome to our new website and blog!

In early 2019, our community launched an effort to understand and end homelessness among youth and young adults in Springfield and Hampden County, Massachusetts.

We’ve already made progress toward understanding the scope of the problem and who it impacts. This website shares the information collected in our needs assessment conducted in the first half of 2019. It provides data plus insights from young people 13-24 with lived experience of homelessness.

Understanding the problem is just the start. We are committed to use this information to plan our community-wide response, make the changes and find the funding to implement the response, and then continuously measure our progress and shift our strategies until we get it right. 

We aim to make homelessness among youth and young adults rare, brief, and non-recurring. We believe this goal is ambitious but achievable. 

It will take our whole community working together to get there. Please join us in creating the solution. Subscribe to this blog for regular updates and meeting announcements.

Thank you for your support. We look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

Gerry McCafferty, Director of Housing, City of Springfield


Gerry McCafferty