Allegheny County health officials want to help the region’s homeless youth – but they aren’t sure how many live here.
A report from the county’s Department of Human Services conducted earlier this year found 1,156 homeless adults living in Allegheny County. But officials are going over the results of another survey to find out how many homeless youth live in the county, which includes people age 24 and younger.
The department’s Homeless Bureau Administrator, Abigail Horn, said it’s important to differentiate between homeless youth and adults, because they don’t always have the same needs.
“At 18 they are tired of being in the system, and they get off on their own and quickly realize they don’t necessarily have what they need to successfully transition to adulthood,” Horn said. “Often times they end up homeless, and then they come back to the system and we’re able to help them.”
This is only the second time Allegheny County officials have focused on tallying the number of youths who make up the county’s homeless population, as officials continue to learn what resources are needed and how much of them.
“Homeless youth do more effort in trying to fit in with other kids then they do in exposing themselves as being homeless or at risk,” said Familylinks Outreach Center Manager Lenny Prewitt. “They’re also very mobile, so they’re not in always in the same places all the time. So, it’s difficult to get an accurate count.”
In other words, many "couch surf" or stay temporarily with friends.
Familylinks currently offers the Downtown Outreach Center and Shelter initiative, which provides emergency beds, food and clothing for those in need.
Officials have also worked with Auberle, another homeless youth service organization, to create the 412 Youth Zone, which helps people find housing and employment.