We were delighted to be recognized by the National Clearinghousing for Families & Youth, a FYSB best practices dissemination resource, for our work on estimating the numbers of homeless and transient youth. See NCFY’s just-released article here.
What you won’t find, though, is what we think is the most important part of this work: the attempt to establish a relatively stable rate of disconnection from home that would hold true anywhere, and thus would obviate the need for more counts. As most of us know, getting a real tally of the number of young people in any city who are homeless, almost-homeless, or at risk for homeless is almost impossible, and the federal focus on producing estimates could in the end do more harm than good — at least if solid estimates are a prerequisite to action. Consider that the fact that the vast majority of youth who meet the broadest federal definitions of homeless will never be associated with any agency that would count them, and you see the problem. Most counting techniques aren’t going to fix that, either, because they’re deployed within limited geographical areas and tend to focus on only those young people who are visible, a great many of whom are already receiving services.
In any case, our work in three New England schools districts (and a partner’s work in a fourth) indicate that there is in fact a rate of disconnection that might reasonably hold up from district to district: 10-16% percent. That is, every 1,000 high school students will identify between 100 and 160 unduplicated peers who are no longer living at home. Most are no longer in school, suggesting that aggressive reach-out to these young people is necessary if we are to boost graduation rates.