Glenn College Alumni Insights: Homelessness

Too many homeless youth, but not just a number

Lauren Rummel, MPA '12

Policy Director, Franklin County Board of Commissioners
According to Huckleberry House, one in seven children will run away from home before their 18th birthday, and the Franklin County Youth Needs Assessment reports that LGBTQ youth account for anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of young people who are currently homeless. The most recent Community Shelter Board Snapshot Report shows nearly 1,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 used emergency shelter in 2016. These young people, often referred to as Transition Age Youth, reported “relationship problems” as the primary reason for their homelessness, and research shows these relationship problems often stem from unstable family dynamics or otherwise unsafe living conditions. These young people are facing abuse, violence, and addiction, all while dealing with the typical pressures and challenges of coming of age.

While the statistics are daunting, we are fortunate in this community to have leaders who find them unacceptable. Homelessness and unsafe housing thwart a young person’s ability to grow and thrive, and Franklin County is home to many strong youth-serving organizations that understand the unique needs of young people and agree that no young person living in our community should be without safe, stable and permanent housing. The Franklin County Board of Commissioners invests more than $5 million a year in the Community Shelter Board (CSB), our community’s response to the issue of homelessness, and in a number of targeted youth services such as afterschool programs, mentorship and job readiness training.

In 2017, Franklin County, the City of Columbus and CSB applied to join the 100 Day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness, an initiative of A Way Home America and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. We were selected through a competitive process along with four other communities (Baltimore, Hennepin County, West Palm Beach and Louisville) to participate in the challenge to undertake accelerated systems-planning efforts with the help of national experts and peer communities from across the country.

The team leading the effort included representatives from Franklin County, the City of Columbus, the Community Shelter Board, Huckleberry House, Star House, the Center for Healthy Families, Kaleidoscope, YMCA of Central Ohio, Mount Carmel, Homeless Families Foundation, Maryhaven, and the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.

Our goal was to identify innovative ways to reduce the number of youth experiencing homelessness and inform ongoing systems-planning efforts. As a result, there now exists a list, by name, of Central Ohio youth who are unsheltered or unsafely housed, a best practice identified in the process from other peer communities to help track and serve these young people more effectively. The team also worked to create a path for youth to access rapid re-housing assistance and developed initial recommendations to make existing shelter services more targeted to youth-specific needs.

Taking the lessons learned from the 100 Day Challenge, the Committee to Address Youth Experiencing Homelessness will next represent the youth voice in the work of the Rebuilding Lives Funder Collaborative to develop CSB’s Community Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness that will guide the community’s response to homelessness in the years to come. Ending youth homelessness is an important challenge, and Franklin County continues to play a key role as both a funder and a leader in these efforts.

The opinions, recommendations, findings and conclusions presented in this blog post are those of the author(s) and do not represent a policy position or views of either the John Glenn College of Public Affairs or the Ohio State University.

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