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School of Public Service Survey Looks Into Homeless Youth in Ada County

By: Brady W Moore   Published 2:56 pm / October 23, 2017

Boise State University’s Idaho Policy Institute, within the School of Public Service, teamed up with the City of Boise, Ada County and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago for Voices of Youth Count, a first-of-its-kind national effort aimed at ending youth homelessness.

Ada County was one of 22 counties from across the United States to participate in the program.

Among homeless or unstably housed youth who were surveyed in Ada County, the findings showed:

  • 16 percent had been in foster care
  • 29 percent had been incarcerated or in juvenile detention
  • 24 percent had been in foster care and incarcerated or in juvenile detention
  • 20 percent of females were either a parent or pregnant
  • 18 percent of males were either parents or their partner was pregnant
  • 65 percent were male

From 3:30-4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, Ada County and the Idaho Policy Institute will co-host a public event to present and discuss the research findings. The event will take place in the first-floor public hearing room at the Ada County courthouse.

Dozens of community volunteers, including young adults who had experienced housing instability, carried out youth-led counts and surveys of young people and providers to collect information about the number and characteristics of youth experiencing homelessness and the services available to them.

“Evidence shows that in order for youth to reach their full potential they need access to school, work and stable housing,” said Vanessa Fry, Boise State’s research lead and assistant director of the Idaho Policy Institute. “This research provides information specific to Ada County’s youth in regards to both current access and available supportive services.”

“It is our hope that the people of Ada County, who work so hard to serve homeless young people, will find important evidence in this research that will accelerate solutions,” said Bryan Samuels, executive director of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. “Together we are building an unprecedented foundation on which to create policies, programs, and practices to respond to and ultimately end youth homelessness.”

Voices of Youth Count comes at a critical time for communities and Congress. Reliable data, new strategies and direct engagement have accelerated the nation’s progress in preventing and ending veterans’ homelessness. But efforts to end homelessness among young people, whose circumstances and needs are very different, have lacked the focus that strong data can bring to resource decisions and coordination across communities.

As findings emerge, Chapin Hall will place data and evidence in local and national context, make purposeful connections between existing and new knowledge and policy, and provide decision makers at national and local levels with recommendations for action.

“When the Ada County commissioners were invited to participate in the Voices of Youth Count, we were intrigued with the concept,” said Commission Chairman David Case. “But really unaware of the extent of our homeless youth population. After reaching out to the three school districts in the county, we were shocked at the extent of the problem and highly motivated to help find solutions.”

As the community moves forward to address the findings from the Voices of Youth Count effort, project partners will continue to meet regularly to discuss solutions and next steps.  “We are grateful for the opportunity to be part of this innovative program alongside our local partner agencies and for the Idaho Policy Institute’s continued work to provide analysis and research for this effort,” said Corey Cook, dean of the School of Public Service.

“We look forward to the opportunity of taking the next step and answering the question of how we, as a society, will meet the needs of our most vulnerable youth, get them into safe environments and help them reach their full potential as they move toward adulthood,” said Case.