Leading on Youth Homelessness Prevention

Early identification and services for students at-risk for homelessness and dropping out of school

In the United States, homelessness policies and services mostly involve crisis response. They typically offer assistance after someone experiences homelessness or an immediate housing crisis. Much less is done “upstream” to prevent homelessness and related adversities.

Prevention involves a different kind of approach. Because no single system or institution can reach all youth and address the multiple causes of homelessness, coordination is key. To this end, Chapin Hall is partnering with school systems and local organizations in a small number of U.S. communities to adapt, pilot, and evaluate the “Upstream” model. Upstream is the American adaptation of the Australian Geelong Project, which led to significant reductions in the number of adolescents (ages 12-18) entering the local homelessness system and a dropping out of school.

Upstream involves establishing data-driven processes to identify students at risk for homelessness or dropping out of school, and to identify those already experiencing homelessness. The process starts with a screening survey that the school invites all students to take. This can be supplemented with routinely collected early warning indicators like chronic absenteeism. If risks are indicated, the school system or its community partner delivers a flexible case management and counseling approach, linked to a range of resources to meet the needs of the students and their families.

This place-based model connects schools and community services to provide support to young people and their families at high risk for homelessness or school dropout. In doing so, Upstream strengthens resilience and addresses underlying risk factors before they escalate to crisis, building sustainable new community and family capacity.

Chapin Hall has conducted extensive research to determine the prevalence of and the conditions that lead to youth homelessness. Our experts include Research Fellow Dr. Matthew Morton and researcher Dr. Melissa Kull, who together with a broader team of researchers and policy experts build evidence to inform policy makers and practitioners on what works to prevent and end youth homelessness.

For more information on the U. S adaptation of Upstream, please contact Matt Morton.