Intersection: First Tri-County Homeless Youth Count
Non profits fighting homelessness in Central Florida now have a better idea of the number of youth living on the streets thanks to a tri-county survey.
The census conducted last October is the first ever regional study of homeless youth in Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties.
The Central Florida Commission on Homelessness teamed up with researchers from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago to carry out the study.
Over three days last October volunteers identified 268 unaccompanied homeless youth aged 13 to 24.
155 of them agreed to take part in the survey.
Dr. Matthew Morton, lead researcher with Voices Of Youth Count at Chapin Hall says the census identified groups that are disproportionately affected by homelessness.
“Black and African American Youth, for example, were 42% of youth experiencing homelessness,” says Morton.
“About a third of the young women experiencing homelessness were pregnant and parenting, and 35% of youth that were experiencing homelessness identified as LGBTQ,” he says.
“So these are groups that are disproportionately affected by this challenge, and our systems and services, both in Central Florida but really nationally, need to be responsive to these specific sub populations in making sure that we’re addressing their needs.”
Morton says young people often don’t want others to know they’re homeless because they don’t want to be defined by it. Another challenge, he says, is the shortage of housing specifically for homeless youth.
Central Florida Commission on homelessness CEO Shelley Lauten says it’s a challenge to provide them with housing.
“We just don’t have enough,” says Lauten.
“I think these numbers allow us now to start putting some plans together on some more strategic emphasis on housing for the unaccompanied youth,” she says.
And she says the study will help the commission coordinate services.
“How do we build a coordinated system of care, what kind of beds do we need, what kind of federal government support might there be,” says Lauten.
“So we’re still in the planning stage.”