November is National Runaway Prevention Month and California Runaway and Homeless Youth Prevention Month, an annual awareness and prevention campaign for runaway and homeless youth issues. The YMCA of San Diego County has more than 48 years’ experience serving this population, and this year, we’re sharing a series of blog posts that explore the issue in depth.

Last week, we discussed the importance of National Runaway Prevention Month and why youth experiencing homelessness should be served differently than adults. (Read last week's article here). The challenges these youth, and we as service providers, face are significant. Fortunately, we are surrounded by partners who are equally committed to investing in the future of homeless youth:

Regional Taskforce on the Homeless (RTFH)RTFH is a network of stakeholders committed to alleviating homelessness and coordinating all resources and services so homeless individuals have what’s known as a Continuum of Care in San Diego County. The body uses data, such as annual Point in Time Counts, and provider insight to strategically plan and coordinate resources for people experiencing homeless throughout the County. With its expertise in youth homelessness, the YMCA participates in monthly and ad-hoc RTFH feedback sessions, providing input from the front lines of service to drive decisions that will have the greatest impact on solving homelessness in our community.

The Homeless Youth Outreach Collaborative: The YMCA and two other youth-serving agencies in San Diego, San Diego Youth Services and South Bay Community Services, make up the San Diego Homeless Youth Outreach Collaborative. The Collaborative, started 22 years ago, provides resources to help youth leave the street, prevention and early intervention to prevent a homeless experience, housing and independent living skills training, and services and therapeutic support to LGBTQ+ youth and their families. The agencies deliberately coordinate efforts, successfully applying federal, state and local grant funds to services for youth in a way that ensures those programs reflect and serve the communities they know best.

Advocates and Policymakers: The YMCA is an active member of the California Coalition for Youth (CCY) and, with CCY, helps educate policymakers about the need to increase funding for homeless youth programs. Their recent efforts resulted in Governor Jerry Brown signing Senate Bill 918: Homeless Youth Act of 2018, which authorized the creation of an Office of Homeless Youth to oversee and administer education, prevention, early intervention, and treatment grant programs for RHY and their families. The Act, authored by California Senator Scott Weiner and Assemblymember Bianca Rubio, reinforces the need for interventions tailored to homeless youth instead of catering to an adult population.

We are grateful for the dedication these groups demonstrate and see a bright future where collaboration and strategic investments will strengthen vulnerable individuals and our surrounding communities.  

Check back next week to learn more about specific YMCA programs to support youth facing housing instability in San Diego or contact Luisa Montes, [email protected], for more information.