Consistent with the long-time rallying cry of the disability rights movement, “Nothing about us without us,” youth voices are vital to shaping the national response to youth homelessness.
The True Colors Fund and National Alliance to End Homelessness are proud to announce a new group, comprised exclusively of young people, to contribute to the growing national dialogue on how to make youth homelessness “rare, brief, and one-time.” The National Youth Forum on Homelessness will ensure that our national conversation is informed by and filtered through the perspectives of young people who have experienced homelessness, and that strategies to end homelessness are generated by youth and young adults themselves.
The Forum will create youth-led change in the national response to end youth homelessness, by:
- Identifying and analyzing policy that impacts youth who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness, and advocating for strong policy based upon that analysis.
- Using personal experience, research and data, to assess the effectiveness of interventions that assist homeless youth and advocate for improved practice.
- Creating an opportunity for youth who have experienced unaccompanied homelessness to network with one another annually at their own meeting, which will encompass a two-day pre-conference session at the Alliance’s February Families and Youth Conference.
- Providing input to the Alliance, True Colors Fund, and other national partners to help inform organizational strategies to ending youth homelessness.
The idea for the Forum began to take shape in 2015 when the True Colors Fund and the Alliance brought together a small group of young people at the Alliance’s National Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness. At that time, youth participants expressed an interest in organizing a more robust youth voice at future Alliance conferences. The Alliance and True Colors concurred, and the group was expanded and trained to have a more meaningful presence and voice on a large scale – including sponsoring listening sessions with federal agencies and participating in plenaries and workshops at subsequent Alliance conferences. In 2016, this expanded group of youth proposed a full-fledged national advisory Forum that would be trained and supported to speak to federal policy and influence practice.
The Forum will be made up of twenty young people who experienced unaccompanied homelessness while between the ages of 13 and 25. Members of the Forum will receive stipends for their participation, and membership will be for two years.
Forum members will have opportunities to educate one another about all forms of homelessness and the systemic solutions to them. These young people will be geographically and experientially representative of the diversity of youth who have been homeless, including being reflective of the over-representation of LGBTQ youth, former foster youth, and youth of color.
The National Forum on Youth Homelessness demonstrates the commitment of the True Colors Fund and National Alliance to End Homelessness to honoring the voices and ideas of those who experience youth homelessness firsthand – youth! We are honored to provide a new platform from which young people can create a better world for themselves and their peers.
**This blog post was a joint effort between Twiggy Pucci Garçon, our Senior Program Officer, and Mindy Mitchell, Program and Policy Analyst at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.