Category Archives: Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

Seeking your input: Massachusetts Youth Count 2015

Massachusetts is conducting its second annual count of youth who are homeless or unstably housed.  The CoCs are coordinating the count, which will take place January 28–February 3, 2015.

It takes lots of contacts to reach youth throughout our region, especially since many youth do not access homeless service providers. To get to as many youth as possible, we need lots of partners.

Can you help us?

As a first step, please tell us what you know and what you might be willing to do. Start by filling out this survey, and then forward the survey to everyone you know who works with youth.

Also, if you are in Hampden County, connect with us for regular updates.  Visit our website and follow us on Twitter @HampdenYouth.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Minutes – 11/18/14

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting
November 18, 2014

In attendance: Dave Christopolis, Hilltown CDC, Lisa Goldsmith, Dial/SELF, Rani Gould, YWCA, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Jean Rogers, CHD, Teri Rutherford, Hilltown CDC, Pamela Schwartz, Network

Update on Youth Count Training:
Lisa, Lizzy, Dave and Teri all attended the ICHH sponsored Youth Count training in Worcester on 11/17. Lisa and Lizzy presented on a panel (hats off to the Western region for their excellent count numbers last year). Lisa connected with a staff person from Bristol County Community College who will be a resource for tips for working more effectively with Greenfield Community College this time around.

Outreach to school population: Sarah Slautterback of DESE attended and shared the latest clarification around outreach within the schools: with superintendent permission, we can provide information via guidance counselors and/or assemblies about magnet events outside of the school relevant to the Count. This is very exciting progress. Dave will reach out to the Pittsfield superintendent and Lizzy intends to reach out to the Springfield superintendent and target 3-5 high schools in Springfield and Holyoke and hold magnet events at Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College. Jordana suggested considering use of the Holyoke Library for a magnet event since it is more accessible than HCC.

Teri also suggested using school “morning announcements” to share information about magnet events.

The Count Training also included information about how best to reach youth, stressing the importance of social media and the value of having youth reach out to youth, first building relationships and trust before conducting the survey.

Brainstorm sources for “youth ambassadors” – Gandara Center, Act Up for Hampden County; Dial/SELF for Franklin County; Hampshire County is less clear although Dave and Teri will reach out to ServiceNet and Community Action; Berkshire County Dave has relationships and will follow-up.

The youth surveys are slated to begin Thursday, 1/29, the day after the HUD Point in Time count and may continue through the following Tuesday.

Time is now to begin recruiting participating organizations in survey distribution (starting with last year’s recruits).

We will consider whether to use the video made at last year’s regional youth count training to distribute for training for this year.

Teri noted that it is very important for those doing outreach to understand well the WHY of this survey; what change are we trying to effect, and to be able to explain it to the youth we are asking to survey.

We discussed the challenge of reaching youth who don’t want to be identified as homeless. We acknowledged the importance of detailed information related to the magnet events, including directions, access to bus tokens, etc.

We discussed other possible outreach targets: community colleges, adult learning and literacy centers, Planned Parenthood (Teri has a friend who is a manager there) and Tapestry Health. We need to lay the groundwork for teachers and counselors to help identify and direct youth to this survey.

We discussed the role of the Network in the Count and agreed that the Network would post regular announcements on its blog, directing people to Teri for 3 County and Lizzy for Hampden County, for assistance with outreach. Contact info for Teri: 413-296-4536 ext 110.

Legislative update:

Great news for House bill 135, now re-numbered to Bill 4517: the House Ways and Means Committee released the bill and it is now in “Third Reading” which is the final stage before going up for a vote and then moving onto the Senate. There is a push to get it passed before the end of the Governor’s term and it’s looking very hopeful. We will await action alerts from Mass. Coalition for the Homeless and should anticipate advocacy on the Senate side, especially for our region’s senators on the Senate Ways and Means Committee (Senators Brewer, Downing and Humason). Pamela will send out action alerts as soon as available.

This bill authorizes services for unaccompanied homeless youth, a critical first step in gaining more funding to support those services.

Next meeting: Wed., 12/10, 10 am, Behavioral Health Network, 417 Liberty Street, Springfield

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting Minutes – 10/8/14

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee
October 8, 2014

In attendance: Pamela Cook, Gandara Center, SHINE program; Lisa Goldsmith, Dial/SELF; Sarah Kline, North Adams Public Schools program, Kim Majewski, Gandara Center, SHINE program; Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Mark Watkins, Gandara Center, SHINE program

Youth Count Report Discussion:

MA Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth recently released its report on the first Youth Count. Click here to obtain a copy of the report.  Both Hampden County and Three County CoCs did a great job with this initial round of surveying. We gave an extra nod to Hampden County for collecting close to the highest number of surveys in the state!

The report acknowledged, and we validated, that the number of youth surveyed and found homeless by HUD or state definitions, is an under-count of the population.   It can be very difficult to access this population and this first effort is a great building block for increasing that access and to demonstrating the needs of this population. Probably the greatest success was the building of an infrastructure that allows us to increase the quality and quantity of data for the next round.

We discussed how we are eager to get back from DHCD the CoC-specific data so we can analyze it more closely on a local level (the state report offered aggregated results).

Lizzy Ortiz shared that she attended HUD’s webinar on youth count and what she learned only underscored how well we did in our count (i.e., we already did much of what they suggested).

Lizzy noted that HUD made clear that from a federal perspective, there are no barriers to involving schools in the count and survey. We all acknowledged that addressing this barrier on a state level is critical to obtaining a more accurate and meaningful count. We will continue to discuss this with Sarah Slautterback of DESE and Liz Rogers of ICHH.

Planning for 2015 Youth Count:

We assume the count will take place between the week of 1/26-1/30 (subject to confirmation).

Hampden County:
Lizzy reached out to Catholic Charities for MSW intern who will support the count. She intends to expand their outreach to include the Springfield/Holyoke/Chicopee police departments; and the juvenile court system; probation department. We discussed the SHINE program as a potential resource for youth ambassadors, but acknowledged the challenge of transportation (a car is needed to deposit and collect surveys at various locations, etc.).

Three County: Lisa Goldsmith will connect with Dave Christopolis and Rebecca Muller around planning.

Brainstormed timeline for Youth Count:

Lizzy will send “master list” of survey participants to Pamela who will send to Lisa, Kim, Rebecca, Sarah (Kline) and Dave so all can review and brainstorm expansion

1st week of November: first contact via phone calls and emails o previous survey participants and potential new participants

1st week of December: provide the count plan, e.g., how it’s being conducted, the use of ambassadors, the incentives, etc.

Organize outreach events during count week (Hampden County only) first week of January – set location, sponsors, etc.

Next meeting: look at 11/18, following Holyoke liaison meeting (11 am). Pamela will follow-up with Jordana to confirm.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting Minutes – 9/10/14

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee
September 10, 2014

In attendance: Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Pamela Cook, Gandara Center Shine Program, Lisa Goldsmith, Dial/SELF, Sarah Kline, North Adams Public Schools, Diana McClean, City of Westfield, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Jean Rogers, CHD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, ESE, Alexis Warth, YWCA of Western Mass, Mark Watkins, Gandara Center Shine program

Report on Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (Lisa Goldsmith):

Youth Count report (based on count conducted last January) – due to be released shortly, now in EOHHS for final edits. Initial indicators show that Western Mass. did a great job in collecting data. The legislature allocated $150,000 in FY15 to conduct its second youth count. The hope is to go farther into data analysis and evaluation and to release both funds and guidance with more time to do outreach and prepare.

The Commission’s “End of Year” report is in process now. It will highlight the gaps in services and make recommendations. The Commission is doing some exciting work with Simmons College, using their forecasting model to ascertain the cost of youth services across the state.

Advocacy Update:

We discussed the ongoing advocacy for House Bill 135 (to provide additional services for unaccompanied homeless youth). Pamela shared the latest email from the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless regarding their advocacy action (photo sharing) and all agreed to participate if possible and to contact their representatives in support of the bill. Youth programs will explore the possibility of enlisting youth participants in the advocacy as a learning tool as well.

Pamela will forward the Coalition email and info on how to contact your legislator.

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