Grantee Spotlight: Building Knowledge to End Youth Homelessness

This week, Voices of Youth Count (VOYC), a project of Campion Foundation grantee Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, announced the next step in their groundbreaking work to provide better information and insights on the prevalence of homeless youth in our country. Launched in the spring of 2015, this innovative research partnership between academia, funders, and local communities presents critical information that our national decision makers need to develop and fund policies ensuring that no young person has to spend even one night on the streets.

This week’s announcement names the twenty-two communities across the country partnering with VOYC to participate in youth-led counts and in-depth analysis that will better answer the questions “How many young people are homeless in our country?” and “How did they end up homeless?”

I am usually not a data enthusiast, but I am now. Finally, we will have the data we need to work with kids from 12-24 years old, who up until now have fallen through the cracks of more than 19 Federal agencies and countless local and county programs. They are either treated as children or adults, neither of which work to meet them where they are and keep them from even one night on the street. Voices of Youth Count is an important step for our country to wrap our arms around our teens to ensure they go on to productive, healthy lives.

-Sonya Campion, President, Campion Advocacy Fund

Two of the communities selected to participate in this work are in our own back yard. King County has long been a national leader in addressing youth homelessness. Their plan is often held up as a model for local response. Likewise, Walla Walla will provide valuable insights as to how smaller, rural areas can work to identify young people who often go unrecognized as homeless in their communities. Both King County and Walla Walla benefit from committed local leaders and a history of forming strong partnerships across different sectors. This shared enthusiasm for solving complex problems is key to demonstrating how cities large and small can successfully tackle this issue.

The Campion Foundation is proud to partner on this national effort and knows that that the leadership at VOYC and within each local community will leverage the momentum building in the Administration and across that nation toward ending youth homelessness. Clearly defining the scope of the problems and sharing effective solutions to them will advance President Obama’s Opening Doors framework and its goal of ending youth homelessness by the year 2020.

Additionally, the information gathered from young people in this study will help us identify where, how, and why young people are falling through the cracks. The answers will likely touch on many areas that need improvement—our schools, child welfare systems, juvenile justice systems, and more. This information will be helpful to anyone working with youth and move us closer to the goal that every young person in our country develops into a successful adult.

We will continue to share opportunities to learn more about this important project and how it informs all of the great work going on at the local, state, and federal level to address the challenges facing our young people.