The 2020 Legislative Short Session saw increased statewide momentum on youth homelessness, with HB4039 being positively promoted by a wide array of service providers and flying through the session with no opposition from either political party. The proposed legislation, among other things, included a directive and funding appropriation for ODHS to conduct a statewide needs assessment of the continuum of housing and services needed for youth experiencing homelessness in Oregon. Although the proposed legislation did not move forward due to the truncated legislative session, ODHS is looking to capitalize on the momentum and feels that such an assessment would fall in line with many of the expectations bestowed upon it.
As a result, ODHS is entering into an agreement with nationally experienced provider, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), to provide technical assistance for:
- Conducting a statewide needs assessment of the continuum of housing and service needs for youth experiencing homelessness; including existing interventions, utilization, and gaps via a proposed regional system modeling; and
- Providing recommendations and a roadmap for building the optimal system for young adults experiencing homelessness in Oregon; including financial modeling for additional housing and services interventions across the continuum
The spirit of the legislative language remains clear – not only do the State and local communities need to understand the scale and depth of housing and service needs for youth and young adults, there should also be a tool that estimates the amount of necessary interventions (i.e. prevention, diversion, crisis-interventions such as shelter, and housing) to resolve youth homelessness in each region. This assessment would generate actual service and housing number estimates, as well as dollar amounts, for the State and localities to work off of for both planning reasons and funding opportunities.
A Statewide Kickoff will lead off the facilitated modeling process, followed by regional sessions in subsequent weeks. Participants will be asked to:
- Describe the youth program models in the homeless response system--both as currently operating and in the optimal system;
- Vision the pathways that lead young people out of homelessness;
- Decide the proportions of youth/young adults that will use each pathway;
- Decide the average length of time youth will spend in each program in each pathway;
- Estimate an annualized number of young people who will touch the system (building off of real- time understanding or the number of young people through existing statewide data)
Regional sessions will discuss data and community information, determine unit counts/projections, and make recommendations regarding the prioritization of new resources, development, and investments, as well as potential reallocation of resources for youth housing interventions. Following these meetings, CSH will complete a financial model for the State that will estimate capital, operating, and service costs for recommended youth housing interventions. Local communities will also eventually be able to utilize the model to determine their own individual needs in a more specific geography.
The RHY Program believes that appropriately caring for our unhoused youth takes more than just youth-serving providers, but also extends out to the community and those entities who provide key services for at-risk populations, and/or are responsible for planning for any type of homelessness. Far too often, homeless youth become homeless adults. We hope that anyone with ties to these groups will consider joining in on this planning work.
We look forward to progressing youth homelessness outcomes in 2020 and believe that this can set the stage for future Legislative investment in homeless youth, as well as allow local communities and youth-serving agencies to have the best information available in applying for funding opportunities to serve this vulnerable and resilient population.
Matthew Rasmussen, Runaway and Homeless Youth Program Administrator
Oregon Department of Human Services