Kansas City Collaborative Sets the Stage for Regional Efforts to End Youth Homelessness
A local policy summit prompts community stakeholders to form a regional council and inspire other regions to do the same
On July 18, 2016, more than 70 representatives from Kansas City area nonprofits, private foundations, public schools, and local, state, and national governments came together to brainstorm barriers and best practices to ending youth homelessness. Dubbed the Ending Youth Homelessness in the Kansas City Region by 2020 Policy Summit, the event was organized by the Cookingham Institute of Urban Affairs in the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri - Kansas City and federal partners from the Administration for Children and Families and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
More than 7,600 children and youth were classified as homeless in nine counties in the Kansas City metropolitan region in 2015-2016, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Kansas Department of Education.1 The U.S. Department of Education defines homeless children and youth as those who "lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence" and who may be sharing someone else's housing or living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, camping grounds, emergency or transitional shelters, cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations, or who are abandoned in hospitals.2 Based on that definition, the sizable number of homeless children and youth is actually considered to be underreported due to young people's unwillingness to admit to being homeless for fear of embarrassment, stigmatization, harassment, or institutionalization.
Eager to take aggressive action to prevent and end youth homelessness, Kansas City Policy Summit participants formed a regional bi-state council in the months following the event. The 37-member Kansas City Bi-State Council on Youth Homelessness is co-chaired by one local, one state, and one federal government representative and includes an array of community stakeholders. The Council focuses on convening stakeholders across domains and sharing information to build effective collaboration, serving as a platform to leverage funding and mainstreaming programs in support of coordinated community response, providing technical assistance and guidance to address impediments to progress, and facilitating research and data sharing while also modeling policy and practice.
Besides inspiring the launch of the Kansas City Bi-State Council, the Policy Summit also prompted a similar undertaking in the Northeast. Shortly after the Kansas City summit, the Federal Regional Interagency Council on Homelessness convened the New England Ending Youth Homelessness Summit, which was attended by 130 stakeholders from six states. Robert Pulster, a Regional Coordinator with the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), helped organize the New England summit after presenting USICH's framework and strategies for ending youth homelessness as a keynote speaker at the Kansas City summit earlier. Pulster continues to support the Kansas City region's efforts to end youth homelessness and provide strategic guidance as needed.
Kansas City is fortunate to have a dynamic group of stakeholders who are committed to ending youth homelessness while modeling a collaborative approach that has motivated other regions to follow suit.
For more information about the Kansas City summit, please visit: /cookingham/ending-youth-homelessness.aspx
You can read about the New England summit at https://www.usich.gov/news/new-england-federal-regional-interagency-council-provides-leadership-on-ending-youth-homelessness
1 Kansas Department of Education. Education for Homeless Children and Youth (McKinney-Vento) 2015-2016 Homeless Data. Updated November 28, 2016. Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Homeless School Districts: SY 2009-2010 Through SY 2015-2016. Updated November 17, 2016.
2 McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvement Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1425 (2002).