Young Unhoused People Are Demanding A Seat At The Table To Discuss Policies
Young people are demanding a seat at the table when it comes to homelessness policy in Los Angeles.
The L.A. Coalition to End Youth Homelessness and the Hollywood Homeless Youth Partnership launched their Young People to the Front campaign on Wednesday in the Westlake neighborhood of L.A. The campaign brings together experts and young people who have experienced homelessness calling for changes and action.
“It's critical in order to combat this issue that youth are leading these spaces and we are co-creating blueprints for projects to combat these things and youth have to be at the forefront of creating that policy,” said Melo, an advocate in attendance who uses a first-name only. “I’m a first-generation American and I feel a responsibility to create space for individuals who have so much to offer.”
Detrell, who also only goes by their first name, is an activist for youth homelessness. They said it’s about accountability.
“The funding of our schools was controlled by property taxes which were controlled by redlining,” Detrell said. “When you grow up in these systems you see just how much it affects your life and how it can hold you back from achieving things.”
It’s easy to see why many unhoused young people are eager to be heard by officials making decisions about their lives. A study from the L.A. County Department of Public Health revealed that deaths among young people ages 18 to 29 experiencing homelessness more than doubled in two years.
That report compared deaths among unhoused people between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 to the same time period a year prior. Deaths among young unhoused people increased at a greater rate than their older counterparts.
The Young People to the Front campaign calls for a set of policy demands for city, county, state, and federal legislation:
- Equitable access to services for young people at high risk of experiencing homelessness
- Dedicated funding for transition aged youth (aged 16-25) as a standard practice with new and existing funding streams
- Ensuring that youth with lived experience have decision making power in ending youth homelessness
- Investments in youth-specific services to prevent long term homelessness
- Decriminalizing youth homelessness
Travis Crown was 18 years old when he found himself unhoused for the first time after being disowned by his parents for being gay. He was able to get into shelter through the L.A. LGBT Center and is now 23, working, and living in his own apartment. Crown said he didn’t realize how common it was for young people to become unhoused until he started working in homelessness services.
“Youth do not have equitable access to resources,” Crown said. “It's hard to get a landlord to give you a lease because they assume you’ll be irresponsible. If you’re a youth of color, or trans, or undocumented, you face so much discrimination. There are more barriers that stack up against you. We need a system where everyone can get access to housing just like anybody else.”
Sarah Fay, a youth advocate who is currently experiencing homelessness, said the campaign is personal to her because the current systems in place have had such an impact on her life.
“Once I turned 18, I became homeless,” Fay said. “Trying to find stability in my life has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve had which is why I've been so tied into this work. There’s a lot of change that needs to be made and be that voice so people can recognize where the barriers are in the system.”