The study found 268 unaccompanied youth were homeless or unstably housed on a single night in October 2017. These individuals met the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of youth homelessness, which is unaccompanied youth 13-24. Of these youth, 33 percent were unsheltered or unstably housed. 12 percent of youth encountered were minors between the ages of 13-17. Study findings indicated 42 percent of individuals surveyed were African-American, 26 percent white or Caucasian, and 19 percent Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish. 36 of youth surveyed were neither in school or working. Surveyed youth had much higher rates of pregnancy and contact with the criminal justice system than their stably housed peers.
This data was gleaned from the results from the three-day count across Orange, Osceola, and Seminole Counties on October 17-19, 2017, which consisted of a street count and organizational count. The count was conducted with over 45 partner organizations and utilized formerly homeless youth as “guides” to identify and survey youth at predetermined hotspots across the region. Researchers from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago used the data collected during the count to perform administrative data analysis and documented resources available for youth in need.
The data underscores the diverse experiences and characteristics of youth facing homelessness in Central Florida and reveal the multiple needs young people have, as well as the different systems with which they interact, including housing, child welfare, justice, behavioral health, nutrition, education, and career supports. This report also underscores the importance of a community-level coordinated strategy to make youth homelessness rare, brief, and one time. This study is intended as a starting point for stakeholders including local governments, nonprofits, houses of worship, and other service providers across the region to inform the development and refinement of a continuum of services provided to homeless and unstably housed youth in Central Florida. The results of the count have prompted a community wide discussion regarding next steps. Next steps include creative housing solutions for this unique population and the creation of a digital ecosystem to connect youth with the services they need.
“Now that we have a firmer understanding of the issues facing unaccompanied youth in our community, we must work together as a community to create and expand the services this unique population needs,” said Martha Are, Executive Director of Homeless Services Network of Central Florida.
“When you picture homelessness, you don’t often imagine a 14-year-old living alone, scared, and unstably housed,” said Central Florida Commission on Homelessness CEO Shelley Lauten. “This report will bring light to an issue which has for too long not been adequately understood. I know our community will do what is necessary to surround these young people with the care they need at this critical juncture in their lives.”