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New report takes hard look at Philly’s hidden homeless youth

It provides a snapshot of this hidden and vulnerable population

A new report seeks to shed light on Philly’s youth homelessness problem.
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The City of Philadelphia just released its first major report on youth homelessness in the city, and the findings are stark: Close to 600 Philadelphians ages 13 to 25 were homeless and unaccompanied on a single night in August.

That’s just one of the major insights revealed in the 108-page report of the Office of Homeless Services (OHS) that was released Wednesday. It is considered the city’s most comprehensive report to date on its hidden youth homelessness problem.

The report found that in Philadelphia, the homeless youth population falls on the younger end of the age spectrum and in some cases less likely to be sheltered than other Voices of the Youth Count counties throughout the country.

Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago compiled the report by talking with local youth who have experienced homelessness and conducting surveys. It was part of a larger, nationwide Voices of Youth Count effort to end youth homelessness.

“Our primary goal in participating in the study,” said OHS Director Liz Hersh, “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.”

Of the 569 youth and young adults who were homeless and unaccompanied during one night in August 2016, 70 percent of this group was African-American; a third were mothers or pregnant; and more than a quarter reported being in foster care, juvenile detention, or both at one point.

Also of this population, 31 percent identified as LGBTQ. The study authors note, though, that this number may even be higher because some of those interviewed may have felt uncomfortable identifying their sexual orientation.

“This youth-driven methodology has yielded incredible data on the needs of youth experiencing homelessness,” Hersh said.

The report notes that while comprehensive, it is just a snapshot into the hidden and vulnerable youth homeless population, since the surveys were only conducted on one night. But the hope is that the data can be used by the city and local organizations to make systemic changes that can help end the youth homelessness problem.

In some ways, the city has already started trying to help tackle this issue. Already, the city put $700,000 to combatting youth homelessness in 2016. And in December, Project HOME will break ground on the on Gloria Casarez Residence, the city’s first permanent supportive housing for LGBTQ youth who are homeless or at risk.

A forum on the findings will be held on November 28 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. in the Mayor’s Reception Hall at City Hall.