Preble Street, the hub of services for the homeless and poor in Greater Portland and the state, has organized agencies in seven counties to conduct a first ever runaway and homeless youth count in Maine.
The point-in-time count, made possible through financial support from the Butler Family Fund, a Washington D.C.-based foundation that focuses on the inequities of homelessness and in the criminal justice system, will take place the week of May 18th.
“This will be one of the most comprehensive counts of homeless and runaway youth undertaken anywhere in the nation, and perhaps the first to take place in a largely rural state,” said Jon Bradley, Preble Street Associate Director.
“The lack of accurate counts of runaway and homeless youth is a national concern, and gaining a better understanding of the number of youth and the causes of their situations, is key to developing programs and policies to prevent homelessness and meet the needs of youth who are already out of their homes.”
Working with local partners in each of the seven participating counties, Preble Street will reach out to schools, law enforcement, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Family and Children’s Services and other community resources to find young people ages 20 and under who are not staying with parents or guardians and remain unstably housed or at risk.
Partners are New Beginnings in Androscoggin and Franklin counties; Preble Street and Tedford Housing in Cumberland County; Kennebec Behavioral Health in Kennebec County; Knox County Homeless Coalition and Penquis CAP in Knox County; Rumford Group Homes in Oxford County; and The Opportunity Alliance in York County.
“Because there are only three youth shelters in Maine, many youth find alternative ways of surviving when away from guardians, including staying with friends or ‘couch surfing,’ sleeping out, or finding abandoned properties,” said Bradley.
An in-depth 30-question survey, developed based on youth and provider input, will gather information from each youth counted. Results will be analyzed to provide Maine government officials with specific recommendations for decreasing the number of homeless and runaway youth in the state.