Until recently, unaccompanied homeless youth in Maryland have been largely unknown to policymakers and society at large - an invisible population. This is in part because youth experiencing homelessness generally are indistinguishable in appearance from their housed peers. Many have jobs or are going to school and are eager to improve their situations. These youth generally do not fit the traditional homeless person archetype. Instead, they tend to resemble your typical teenager or young adult. While some may be living in cars, vacant buildings or on the street, many others may opt to couch-surf with friends or relatives. These characteristics make it difficult to count unaccompanied homeless youth and young adults and, consequently, it is difficult to design, fund and implement necessary services and supports. In general, current methods for counting homeless persons are geared more towards counting homeless adults and are ineffective for accurately capturing unaccompanied homeless youth. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) only recently began collecting data on unaccompanied homeless youth, starting with their 2013 Point-in-Time (PIT) count.
In 2014, Maryland demonstrated a strong commitment to better understanding the size, scope, and characteristics of the unaccompanied homeless youth population by establishing Youth REACH MD: Maryland’s unaccompanied homeless youth and young adult demonstration project. Youth REACH MD is the state's first-ever multi-jurisdiction, comprehensive survey and census of youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness. The enumeration unfolded across eight Maryland jurisdictions over a three week period from September 28, 2015-October 16, 2015, and was preceded by intensive planning activities undertaken by the Youth REACH MD Steering Committee.
This report details the second phase of Youth REACH MD, incorporating the methods used to survey and count unaccompanied homeless youth and the subsequent findings and recommendations. For more details on the history of the project, characteristics of unaccompanied homeless youth based on national research, and the process used to develop the methodology for Youth REACH MD, please see the Phase I Report.1 Detailed information regarding local implementation, successes and challenges, social marketing and more will be included in the final report and toolkit issued by Youth REACH MD in 2017.