Local Voices – Paul K

Paul Kosowsky, Vice President, Program Operations, Youth Continuum, Greater New Haven, CT

“Youth Continuum has served homeless youth in the Greater New Haven, CT area since 1997. On average, our Street Outreach Program identifies between 200 and 250 new homeless youth each year. Through our DHHS funded Basic Center Shelter, Transitional Living Program, and HUD housing programs we provide housing for approximately 40-50 youth annually.

For most homeless youth, the options for finding housing are extremely limited due to current local systems and federal guidelines.

  • There are no youth shelters for non-system youth and most young people do not feel safe in adult shelters where the population is primarily chronic older adults and those with serious mental health and substance abuse issues. Adult shelter providers are not trained to understand the unique needs of youth and are generally unaware of normal adolescent brain development and the implications for treatment, nor do they employ a Positive Youth Development framework, as skilled youth providers would.
  • Few homeless youth meet the requirements for Permanent Supportive Housing; they are generally low on the priority list for rapid rehousing dollars, which they are often ineligible for, given a lack of prior employment or rent history.
  • Existing HUD guidelines prioritize chronically homeless adults and veterans, making youth needs low on the priority list. As youth do not qualify as ‘chronically homeless’ they fail to rise to the levels to compete for housing with adults who have medical and psychiatric conditions to go along with their history of chronic homelessness.

As providers of youth services, including services to those in the State’s child welfare and juvenile justice systems, we regularly see how the failures of those systems lead to youth homelessness, as well as how homelessness makes these youth more likely to end up in the justice system. As this country moves forward on the efforts to end homelessness for all, we desperately need to go ‘up-stream’ to stop youth from becoming the next generation of chronically homeless. In order to do this, we need federal guidelines which recognize the true nature of youth homeless and allow access to services to prevent and end this situation.

Unlike adults who can often be diverted from care, youth require urgent access to care and support. These youth are survivors, but not without a great deal of damage to them along the way. The statistic regarding homeless youth to increased risks of sexual assault, drug use, HIV/Aids, prostitution, pregnancy, and incarceration, as well as lower graduation and employment rates, clearly indicate that these young people are not being given the opportunity for a bright, productive future that we hold out to young people in America.

The Homeless Child and Youth Act of 2014 will take significant steps to align federal guidelines with the realities and unique needs of youth.”

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Listen to Youth

There is no better way to understand homelessness than listening to the children and youth who have been through it. Listen to what they have to say.

Get the Facts

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About the photos: Photos of children and youth experiencing homelessness provided by Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc., used with permission. (c) 2012, Diane Nilan, HEAR US Inc.