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Last June, when the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness unveiled its framework for ending youth homelessness, representatives from several youth-serving organizations presented feedback. They and the federal representatives at the meeting were unanimous on one point: Before we can end youth homelessness, we need to know how many homeless youth there are, and we need a better understanding of how best to help them, or better yet, how to prevent them from becoming homeless in the first place.
USICH took that plea seriously. In fact, the council was already at work on the first ever national research agenda for advancing our understanding of homelessness in general. The agenda highlights areas, including youth homelessness, where more knowledge is needed to inform policy and enhance practices in the field, and encourages federal, local and private investments in research.
To draft the agenda, USICH reviewed more than 200 studies conducted over the past two decades, as well as research currently under way. The review identified gaps in our knowledge of what causes homelessness for particular groups of people, including youth, and of how we can best address and prevent it.
The youth research agenda includes
studies of homeless youth prevalence, needs and characteristics;
research on students experiencing homelessness; and
analyses of the relationship between the foster care and juvenile justice systems and homelessness.
USICH is encouraging funders and researchers to take the agenda into account as they invest in and design new studies. The council also says cities and counties can partner with universities to study the questions most pertinent to their communities.
What Do You Think?
We’d love to hear what you think about the agenda. What’s at the top of your own “research agenda”? And is your organization collaborating with researchers on studies of homeless young people?