The Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness is gathering and sorting through an estimated 11,000 surveys from the first statewide homeless youth count, which ended last Wednesday.
CCEH partnered with state and local organizations to conduct a month-long outreach effort in seven Connecticut cities, working with youth who have experienced homelessness to quantify Connecticut’s homeless youth population. With the help of a demographer, CCEH will use the data to estimate the state’s homeless population below 25 years of age.
The count specifically targets unaccompanied homeless youth who do not live with a homeless family. This category has traditionally been under-represented in the annual Point in Time count of homeless populations because most of these youth do not live in shelters.
“The way that the shelter system is set up in Connecticut doesn’t do a very good job of capturing youth who are experiencing homelessness,” said Brian Roccapriore, director of homeless management information systems and strategic analysis at CCEH and the main coordinator for the youth count. “The [homeless] youth population looks a lot different from the [homeless] adult population in that [youth] are more likely to be doubled and tripled up, living in hotel, motel situations, staying with friends.”
Another challenge in determining the number of homeless youth is that some youths living without a stable home do not consider themselves to be homeless, said Kelly Traister, quality assurance manager for the homelessness assistance organization New Reach. Traister, who is also the lead coordinator for New Haven’s homeless youth count, added that some youths who might be “couch hopping” among different friends and family members might not characterize their housing situation as unstable.
Last year, the Connecticut PIT count identified five unaccompanied homeless persons under the age of 18, none of whom were in New Haven. However, Jason Bartlett, Youth Services Director of New Haven, said he has heard some estimates that there are 400 homeless children in New Haven alone over the course of a year.
Roccapriore said the homeless youth count was spurred by the knowledge that there is no concrete data for the number of homeless youth in Connecticut.
“The purpose of this [count] isn’t to specifically direct services at individuals, because in a lot of cases and in a lot of the areas where we did [the count], the services don’t exist. So it’s more to identify what the scope and breadth of the problem is so we go ahead and advocate for the proper resources in those areas,” he said.
Roccapriore said state legislators have recently proposed bills that would support homeless children and that the homeless youth count results will give more credibility to these bills and to organizations supporting the legislation.
Traister noted that around 150 youths in New Haven have completed surveys. They were surveyed on the New Haven Green, at libraries, near Gateway Community College and on parts of Whalley Avenue. A group of high school students also conducted a homeless youth survey at High School in the Community, where they collected 80 surveys by using raffles and free snacks as incentives.
Duron Gaskins, one of two formerly homeless youth who worked with Traister in the New Haven homeless youth count, said he has gone through multiple periods of homelessness that have been mentally scarring. He got involved with the homeless youth count because he hopes that youth will not have to experience what he has gone through.
The results of the survey will be published along with the PIT count in May.
Correction: March 3
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the CCEH will estimate the state’s homeless population under 18 years of age. In fact, the CCEH’s cutoff age is 25.