Index Shows States Have Work to Do Combating Youth Homelessness

Musician Cyndi Lauper poses for a portrait at the Sunset Marquis, Thursday, June 28, 2018, in Los Angeles.

Musician Cyndi Lauper poses for a portrait at the Sunset Marquis, Thursday, June 28, 2018, in Los Angeles. Rebecca Cabage/Invision/AP


Connecting state and local government leaders

Cyndi Lauper, who co-founded one of the groups that issued the report, said her hope is it will help states “amp up” their efforts.

Most states are falling short addressing homelessness among young people, according to a new index.

The index and other findings were presented in a report released last week by the True Colors Fund, which was co-founded by musician and actress Cyndi Lauper, and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. It evaluates states based on 61 metrics.

“It is our dream for this State Index to help each state amp up its work to ensure these young people can reach their full potential,” Lauper said in a statement.

Out of a possible 100 points on the index, the highest score was 65 and only 16 states and the District of Columbia met half of the index’s criteria and recommendations.

An estimated 4.2 million people up to age 24 experience homelessness each year in the U.S., the report says. That’s around 1 percent of the nation’s total population.

The report adds that LGBTQ and African-American youth are among the demographic groups with elevated levels of youth homelessness.

Washington state, Massachusetts and Connecticut had the best scores based on the index's criteria. Alabama, South Carolina and Idaho were ranked lowest.

The index ranks states based on metrics in three categories: systems, environment and laws.

An advisory committee of about 30 experts, including some from federal and state government, helped guide the development of the index.

Examples of specific criteria that were factored into metric scores for each state include: having a current state plan in place to end homelessness; declassifying running away from home as a status or delinquent offense; and having a “self-governing youth action council,” which includes young people who have dealt with homelessness, to inform policy decisions.

Homelessness is defined broadly in the report and includes not only staying outdoors, or in homeless shelters, but also temporarily staying with others, or “couch surfing.”

The report mentions some caveats about the index.

For instance, it does not examine how states actually implement laws and policies they might have in place, and it does not fully capture some of the more innovative models and approaches for addressing youth homelessness that are underway in some places.

“Some states that may not have performed well in the Index but have ramped up efforts to address youth homelessness should not be discouraged,” the report says.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

Bill Lucia is a Senior Reporter for Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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