The thing about youth homelessness is that while it may be more visible in big cities such as Baltimore or Los Angeles, it exists even in rural Carroll County. That’s according to Jim Kunz, a member of the Carroll County Circle of Caring Homelessness Board.
“The barriers that youth face, including the lack of shelters and services, that is universal,” he said. “There really are very few if any programs or services designed for unaccompanied, homeless youth.”
At 6 p.m. on Thursday, the Circle of Caring will present “American Street Kid,” a documentary about homeless youth in Los Angeles, to help people better understand the issue of youth homelessness.
The film screening is free and open to the public, Kunz said. The film — which does contain some adult language — is being presented as a way to get people talking about youth homelessness ahead of the second annual YouthREACH Maryland homelessness count in Carroll County.
In the 2017 count, Kunz said, there were 16 “homeless, unaccompanied youth,” uncovered, in addition to 44 who had been identified ahead of the count through other channels.
While there is a count of homeless people in Carroll County conducted each January, known as the Point In Time count, Kunz said that this often misses homeless youth for the simple reason that many do not make use of homeless shelters.
The YouthREACH Maryland count, overseen by the University of Maryland School of Social Work’s Institute for Innovation and Implementation, is designed to correct that undercounting of homeless youth, according to Senior Program Specialist Amanda Miller.
“A lot of this is just about assessing the scope of youth homelessness in Maryland, so we can start better addressing it,” she said. “To focus specially on how to develop creative methodologies locally, in order to connect with youth.”
The “creative methodologies” component is evident even in the count itself.
Rather than a single day, like the Point In Time count, the YouthREACH Maryland count will take place from Saturday, March 10, though Friday, March 23, with several events around Carroll County designed to bring out youth, Kunz said. Those will include a March 22 resource fair at Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster, and a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at The Chester Cafe in Manchester.
“These are opportunities for youth, and others, to get together, learn about resources available for youth and, if eligible, to participate in the YouthREACH count,” Kunz said.
The YouthREACH count also defines homelessness differently than does the Point In Time count: Any young person who is under the age of 25, is not in the care of a parent or legal guardian and lacks a “regular, adequate nighttime residence,” according to Miller.
“Those are the three things we are looking for,” Miller said.
That also includes couch surfing teens and young adults, which is another phenomenon Kunz said may account for undercounting homeless youth in other counts, and even last year’s YouthREACH count.
“Last year I had some people come up to me and say, ‘You know what? I actually know somebody that’s in high school who has been staying with friends right now,” he said. “We are especially interested in hearing from those who are providing housing to ‘couch surfers’ and couch surfers themselves.”
The reason for the YouthREACH effort, Miller said, is that research shows youth who experience homelessness are at greater risk for further harm.
“Youth who experience homelessness are at much greater risk for trafficking, for experiencing violence and becoming victims of crimes or having behavioral health issues and for experiencing future episodes of homelessness,” she said. “If we can address the homelessness early, and prevent it from happening, then they don’t have all of those other negative experiences. They don’t end up becoming chronically homeless.”
Whether people can attend the film screening or one of the upcoming YouthREACH count events, Kunz said they can get more information, and be counted, by calling him.
Latest Carroll County News
“If folks believe that they — or someone they know — is eligible to participate in YouthREACH, they can call 410-857-2538,” he said. “We can have them meet with a member of the committee.”