Youth homeless survey shows vastly more young people in need

BALTIMORE, Md. - More than 1,400 people under 25 years old do not have a stable place to sleep at night in Maryland. A statistic that shows a huge disparity between a groundbreaking study by the University of Maryland and the federally mandated national survey by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Originally HUD's Point-in-Time study showed 481 unaccompanied homeless youth in the entire state in 2015.

Amanda Miller, Program Manager for the Youth REACH MD survey, says this difference is based on two factors. The first, how each survey identified homeless youth.

The REACH survey looked at people under 25-years-old, who are not in physical custody of a parent or guardian, and lack fixed, regular, or adequate nighttime residence.

The HUD survey looks more at youth who are accessing state and city resources, like shelters, or are living on the streets.

"You don't want to appear vulnerable, right? If you're out on your own, that's how you protect yourself. That's often why they refer to this population as hidden or invisible," Miller said most of these youth do not access federally funded resources.

The REACH survey covered eight areas in Maryland. (Washington, Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset, Prince George, Anne Arundel and Baltimore Counties, and Baltimore City)

Baltimore City had the highest number of homeless youth, 540, out of the 834 identified in the survey.

"The key to finding these youth was really using youth ambassadors and letting them guide the process," Miller said their ambassadors were young people who had experienced homelessness at one point in their life.

Miller explained these ambassadors knew where to look, and how to find and engage these young people to gather information.

The survey revealed 54 percent of the people surveyed had lived at a friend's or family member's home, showing how many didn't identify as homeless or reach out for help. Miller said they are concerned about the stigma of that title.

"Some of them don't understand the services that are available. Sometimes there's not that many services available for this population. Some of them have had bad experiences with the system in the past and they're not eager to have that experience again,"Miller said.

The survey was conducted over three weeks from September to October of 2015. Now the results have headed to legislators.

"It's about tailoring our policies and our services so that we can better allocate funds and better provide services so that we can ultimately prevent homelessness from happening to this population," Miller said.

Miller said HUD acknowledged their survey and just released a new grant Wednesday that the City of Baltimore and Prince George's County applied for to help these youths.

Miller said this survey is still and underrepresentation of the homeless youth in Maryland. This survey combined with the city's survey shows 1,715 homeless youth in Maryland.

That is why they are conducting another survey with a wider reach in 2017.

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