For Immediate Release
October 7, 2019
League creates tool to determine youth homelessness stats by Intermediate School District
LANSING—Over 34,000 kids in Michigan’s K-12 schools are homeless. Of those, over 4,800 are “unaccompanied youth,” meaning they are not in physical custody of a parent or guardian. According to a new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy, these youth are even more vulnerable to serious threats facing the total homeless population including sexual exploitation, untreated mental health disorders and physical victimization.
To help people who work with youth, the League has built a new tool that allows users to examine the demographics of the homeless population and determine the number of unaccompanied youth in their Intermediate School District.
The report recommends strengthening the network of resources tailored to the unique needs of people between the ages of 12 and 24—most homeless programs cater either to families or single adults.
“Drop-in centers are more informal settings where youth can access food, showers, laundry and personal hygiene supplies in a place that understands the challenges facing people age 12-24,” said Parker James, Kids Count Policy Analyst at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “These places are able to help youth meet basic needs, complete schoolwork and talk to service providers about challenges they’re facing. But centers like this aren’t available in most communities. We want to encourage community leaders to create spaces where youth feel prioritized—and existing structures like hospitals, libraries and community centers could all be used for programming like this.”
Because 44 percent of youth facing homelessness reported having stayed in jail, prison or a juvenile detention center at some point, the report also recommends specific reentry programming for justice-involved youth.
“Youth who’ve been in the child welfare or juvenile justice system are among the most likely to experience homelessness,” James said. “They’re often unprepared to live independently and they don’t have social supports. We’re seeing some great programs around the state that are helping kids transition out of the justice system. The Michigan Youth Reentry Model is a really effective program being used at the Department of Health and Human Services and in Oakland County. We’d love to see county courts across the state use this model to help justice-involved youth get the support they need.”
The report also points to the state’s current affordable housing crisis and its impact on youth age 24 and under, who average a monthly income of $168.
“Affordable housing really is at the core of all homelessness issues in Michigan, and we need to create a dedicated funding source for the Michigan Housing and Community Development Fund,” James added. “And based on what we’re seeing in this report, we need to make sure to prioritize housing projects that support youth age 24 and under, particularly programming that helps support sustained independence.”
Over half of unaccompanied youth under age 24 accessing homeless services identify as Black or African American. Transgender and gender-nonconforming youth and youth who identify as American Indian or Alaska Native are also overrepresented.
The Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Ruth Mott Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, and the Battle Creek Community Foundation. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center, www.datacenter.kidscount.org.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.