October 3, 2011

Baltimore City one-day homeless youth count reaches 640

Results from the 2011 parallel count of homeless and unstably housed youth in Baltimore City identified 640 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 13 and 25 living out on their own, unaccompanied by a parent or guardian.

In 2009, the parallel count number was 426 homeless young people.

The count was conducted by Nan Astone, an associate professor with the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Ross Pologe of the Baltimore Homeless Youth Initiative and Fellowship of Lights Inc.

“Part of the increase is certainly due to better methods—specifically, an increase in coverage of participating agencies. But it is also highly likely that it is due to a real increase in the number of homeless young people in the city who are critically in need of services,” Astone said.

The parallel count of homeless youth took place on the same date as the Baltimore Homeless Census Point-in-Time Count, Jan. 25, 2011, but was not performed in conjunction with this biannual HUD-mandated count of homeless people in Baltimore City.

Sixteen community agencies and organizations provided data on homeless youth who were either served on Jan. 25 or were on the caseload of the organization in December 2010 or January 2011. These sources included Baltimore City Public Schools, Department of Social Services, Department of Juvenile Justice, Chesapeake Center for Youth Development, Legal Aid and Healthcare for the Homeless.

“While the needs of a homeless 13-year-old can be far more challenging than those of a young adult, both are extremely vulnerable populations, which are often underserved,” Astone said. “For most, the cause of homelessness is broken families and relationships. Unfortunately, these critical relationships are more likely to break during challenging economic times.”

The information from this year’s Homeless Census Count will be used to improve and enhance existing services for homeless people, as well as to identify gaps in care. The Center for Adolescent Health will use data from the parallel count to find out just how many youth are on the streets in Baltimore City, since this vulnerable population tends to dwell under the radar and shuns shelters.

Data from the parallel youth count will also support efforts to change state policies that may contribute to young people’s being unstably housed. Among the concerns are access to food stamps and lack of recognition and services for relatives and other “informal kin” who may take homeless young people in for short periods of time.

For more information about the Baltimore Homeless Census 2011, go to www.jhsph.edu/adolescenthealth/publications_resources.