Central Florida Count Identifies Service Needs for Youth Experiencing Homelessness
The Central Florida Youth Count provided an estimate of the size of the homeless youth population and its characteristics. The results of the count underscore the diverse experiences and characteristics of youth facing homelessness in Central Florida and reveal the multiple needs young people have, as well as the different systems with which they interact.
What We Did
The Central Florida Youth Count was a count and survey of unaccompanied homeless and unstably housed youth in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties in October of 2017. The count was organized by the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, Homeless Services Network, and more than 45 community organizations. Chapin Hall provided technical assistance and data analysis.
Over a three-day period, project activities included:
- A street-based survey of youth experiencing homelessness in locations identified in advance by youth and service providers and a visual count of those who could not be surveyed
- A simultaneous survey of youth in shelters, transitional living programs, drop-in centers, and other organizations where youth may have received services
- An analysis of data from Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) and school systems.
What We Found
On a single night in October 2017, there was an overall count of 268 homeless and unstably housed youth, ages 13 to 24 years old, in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties. Forty-six percent of homeless youth fell into the sheltered category, meaning they slept in emergency shelters, transitional housing, hotels, motels, or hostels.
Based on national survey data, we expected to find more youth in Central Florida who are unstably housed and staying with others because they lack another safe and stable living arrangement. However, these youth are difficult to identify in point-in-time counts because their homelessness is less visible.
Other key findings include:
- Black or African American youth were overrepresented in all three counties.
- Youth in the foster care and justice systems were overrepresented in the tri-county area.
- Thirty-three percent of the female youth in the tri-county area reported being pregnant or a parent.
What It Means
This tri-county youth count was a critical step for the involved communities to better understand the experiences of young people and provided an opportunity to create a more youth-inclusive count process. For future youth counts, deeper service and organization partnerships would likely produce less conservative estimates.
Targeted supports are needed for parenting youth, as well as safe and affirming services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, asexual, and pansexual youth. Additionally, there is a need to better map and address service gaps in rural and suburban areas, especially in Osceola and Seminole counties. With these tri-county data, Central Florida has new evidence underscoring the importance of a community-level coordinated strategy to prevent and end youth homelessness.