GAO report notes lack of coordination on youth homelessness

On November 1st, the U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan government research agency, released Youth Homelessnessness: HUD and HHS Could Enhance Coordination to Better Support Communities.

GAO researchers reviewed documents and interviewed local service providers, agency officials, researchers, and advocates. As a result, they identified three main challenges and made ten recommendations specific to serving youth experiencing homelessness, including young adults and minors (those under 18).

The challenges identified:

  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Continuums of Care (CoC) prioritize older adults higher than young adults through the coordinated entry. This is partly attributed to HUD’s guidance, which prioritizes those who have been homeless longer and who have documented disabilities. HUD guidance to CoCs has not addressed how to ensure young adults are consistently prioritized below other groups for housing.
  • Minors experiencing homelessness unaccompanied by a parent or caregiver have limited housing options. Service providers struggle to coordinate between homelessness and the child welfare system to serve minors.
  • Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Act-funded programs face challenges when coordinating their program with the HUD Continuum of Care. A lack of understanding of one another’s programs and the need for more strategic planning on services for youth was noted.

Summary of recommendations made:

  • HUD, in collaboration with HHS’s Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), should develop additional information on how the coordinated entry process can more effectively serve youth, specifically: “(1) how to help ensure that youth are not consistently prioritized below older adults for housing and services in coordinated entry systems and (2) how CoCs can work with RHY providers and other stakeholders to serve youth who are not prioritized for housing or are not eligible for housing under CoC program rules.”
  • HUD “should provide additional information to CoCs to clarify how they could meet the standards outlined in regulation for serving people in Category 3 of HUD’s definition of homelessness.”
  • USICH with HUD and HHS should develop “an interactive decision-making tool, to help providers accurately identify the federal homelessness assistance programs for which individuals seeking services are eligible.”
  • HUD and HHS, in coordination, “should develop information for local providers that includes examples of how communities have addressed the needs of unaccompanied minors experiencing homelessness, including the role of the CoC program and other entities (such as RHY providers and child welfare) in serving this population in these communities.”
  • HUD and HHS, in coordination, “should provide communities with additional information on strategies and promising practices for coordinating their CoC and RHY programs’ efforts to address youth homelessness.”
  • HUD, in coordination with HHS, “should develop a set of optional youth-specific performance measures that CoCs could use to assess their local efforts to address youth homelessness. HUD should also provide CoCs with information on how they might track these measures.”