Youth Work Group

Unaccompanied homeless youth (UAY) has been identified by THHI and the community to be a key sub-population for targeted interventions in the overall efforts of reducing and ending homelessness in the Hillsborough County-Tampa community.  These youth  are difficult to locate, have a high distrust of the ‘systems’ and are the most vulnerable segment of the homeless population as they are more likely to be exploited, abused, succumb to drug additions and prostitution as a means to survive.  Their unique needs and challenges require specific interventions and services that differ from the general homeless population.

In December 2013, THHI convened a Youth Work Group that includes representatives from the school district, foster care system, youth-focused medical services, law enforcement, youth service providers, and the faith community.

The group has been tasked to assess the UAY population and develop a plan to address their needs for stable housing, transportation, jobs, education, health care and supportive relationships.   The goal of the Youth Work Group is to establish a comprehensive network of services and housing to end youth homelessness.

The group’s first challenge was to create a shared, agreed upon definition of who is considered an unaccompanied homeless youth, as there are various federal, state and community definitions, which at times can be contradictory to one another.  The work group agreed on the following definition:

An UAY is someone who:

  • Is between the ages of 16 and 24, and
  • Has no adult caregiver as defined by federal and state law, and
  • Lacks a regular, fixed and adequate night-time residence, or is facing imminent loss of housing

The group recognizes that some homeless service programs and funding can only assist those who are literally homeless on the street, however they felt that because many UAY are frequent ‘couch surfers’ to not include them in the planning and development of services of housing would be a disservice to these youth and the overall community.

The work group believes that regardless of age, race, status and orientation, all youth deserve that accord of comfort and safety.

Within this target population, there are also two distinct groups – those youth who are minors by lay (16-17 years old) and those 18 to 24 years old who are adults for legal purposes.  This is because the latter group is able to access some of the general adult population shelter and housing programs.

The youth work group has three sub-committees:

  • Data Gathering and Analysis Committee:  Collect and review existing data from all sources to describe the target population as a whole and various sub-groups within it.
  • Best Practices and funding streams:  Study communities similar to ours that have dealt with youth homelessness effectively and study what they did, how it was organized and funded; Catalog resources that:  1) Target the target Population, and 2) Mainstream resources that could be used to serve target population.
  • Awareness Committee: formulate and implement an awareness campaign.


Draft Strategy

The following draft strategy outlines the objectives the Youth Work Group is seeking to accomplish.



1. Obtain and collect better data on target population as required to quantify needs and interventions
Youth Count
Collect and compile existing data from existing organizations
Develop an on-going method of updating and sharing information across Systems
2. Design a system to connect youth with available resources
Inventory all community resources for homeless youth and post on a web-site
Develop search links
Publicize through social media
Expand and publicize Network of safe places where youth can go for help using existing locations County geographically dispersed, easily identified, working from an established protocol.
3. Identify and request funding for County-wide coordinated outreach for all populations
including youth.
4. Review Best Practices among communities that are handling this issue well
5. Implement a host family support program
6. Provide housing options for foster care 18-23
7. Provide housing options for other homeless youth
8. Identify and quantify interventions needed and potential funding and identify sponsors/champions for same
9. Catalogue Federal, State and local funding streams
10. Design and implement an awareness campaign

Midterm Funding to implement

11. Seek funding for interventions identified above
12. Strategy for applying for available funding
(a) specific to youth
(b) not specific to youth, like housing, CDBG, HOME


Youth Work Group Committee

Youth Work Group List