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Authors: Scott, Kathryn
Advisors: Kinsey, David
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: Overview: Homelessness intervention, legislation, and research efforts have consistently and detrimentally overlooked the transition age youth who comprise the majority of unaccompanied homeless youth in the United States. Transition age youth (TAY), who are typically between the ages of 18 and 24, face significant risks and challenges. They are more likely to become chronically homeless adults and generate lifetime costs to society. Trapped between adolescence and adulthood, TAY require interventions that focus on transitioning them into leading self-sufficient lives. Los Angles (LA) County in California is a critical area for policy intervention, given that California has nearly a third of the nation’s homeless youth and LA County has over 4,000 homeless TAY on a given night. This thesis aims to demonstrate the distinct and problematic nature of TAY homelessness, identify the major gaps in interventions and barriers to service utilization, and propose TAY-appropriate policy and program changes that will open the front door to needed services and ultimately help transition youth into stable adulthood in LA. In addition to document review and policy analysis, I conducted two surveys to support my objectives: a survey of homeless youth service providers and agencies in LA and California, and a survey of homeless TAY at a drop-in center in Hollywood. Findings: Homeless TAY have been grossly unaccounted for by homelessness policies. Legislation and agency strategies at the federal level have trickled down to negatively influence state and local policy. In LA County, TAY are further hindered by a difficult urban landscape and gaps within service provision. My survey helped to emphasize the chronic nature of TAY homelessness and systemic barriers to service access, such as lack of transportation and eligibility barriers to housing programs. Further analysis revealed that drop-in centers do not have sufficient resources to meet needs, while publicly funded transitional housing programs do not use developmentally appropriate outcome measurements. Transitional housing programs for TAY are not appropriately prioritized or evaluated, despite being more cost effective than alternatives such as street life or incarceration. Policy Recommendations: New and improved policies can be implemented without new legislation, but a comprehensive intervention for TAY homelessness in LA County will require a multicomponent, multi-step process. Increased public funding and resources, as well as the changed attitudes and strategies of public agencies towards TAY, will be fundamental to achieving change. Public agencies and service providers should reframe drop-in centers and housing as necessary infrastructure for the provision of supportive services, rather than just categories of services in themselves. Collaboration between youth service providers can strengthen solidarity and service coordination, while simultaneously overcoming challenges within the local community. From here, service providers should create a Coordinated Entry System (CES) to guide TAY to needed services. Providers should also gradually modify transitional housing programs to adopt a TAY-specific model of transitional housing (“THTAY”) that incorporates youth-appropriate features, while utilizing developmentally appropriate outcome measurements and performance targets.
Extent: 130 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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