November 15, 2017

Report sheds new light on Philadelphia's youth homelessness problem

Citywide research released Wednesday gave Philadelphia officials a closer look at homelessness among the city's youth.

According to the 106-page report that was part of a national study, there were at least 569 people ages of 13 and 25 who were counted as being homeless and unaccompanied at the time of a survey conducted on one night in August 2016, the city's Office of Homeless Services said. 

Of those counted, 28 percent had been in foster care, the juvenile justice system or both at sometime in their lives.

The research is part of Voices of Youth Count, a national effort to end youth homelessness led by Chapin Hall, a policy research center at the University of Chicago.

Philadelphia was one of 22 U.S. cities selected for the effort, as well as one of five cities where young people who were either currently or formerly homeless were interviewed for the project.

OHS plans to release content from those interviews in the coming months, officials said.

“Our primary goal in participating in the Voices of Youth Count study was to learn more about the needs of this hidden and vulnerable population so that we can accelerate solutions to prevent and end youth homelessness," OHS Director Liz Hersh said in a statement.

OHS officials plan to hold a Nov. 28 forum on the findings with the Philly Homes 4 Youth Coalition, a group of more than 30 public and private agencies working to address homelessness among youth. The event runs from 9:30-11:30 a.m. in the Mayor's Reception Room at City Hall.

The report also found that 70 percent of those counted were African American, 78 percent had graduated high school or received their GED and more than one-third of females were mothers or pregnant at the time, officials said.

A news release hailed the report as the city's most comprehensive report to date on youth homelessness.

Other findings in the report included the following:

• Young members of the LGBTQ community are over-represented within the city’s youth homelessness population
• Youth homelessness is a hidden issue often disguised as couch-surfing
• A strong cross-system collaboration among public systems that include the school district and the child welfare and justice systems are crucial to preventing youth homelessness

The national effort was funded in part by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as from numerous charitable foundations.

The full report can be found here.