March | April 2018

OJJDP Participates in National Summit on Youth Homelessness

National Network for Youth logoOn March 19–20, 2018, the National Network for Youth hosted its annual National Summit on Youth Homelessness in Washington, DC. Dr. Sanzanna Dean, OJJDP Senior Policy Advisor, attended the event’s federal agency roundtable discussion alongside representatives of the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor as well as the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Every year, the National Network for Youth brings together federal staff to discuss participating agencies’ efforts to address youth homelessness. Representatives describe and respond to questions about their respective agencies’ current efforts and make at least one new commitment for the upcoming year to support young people experiencing homelessness. This year, the Department of Justice—through OJJDP—committed to continue collaborating with partners and improving information dissemination among local and national stakeholders

Dr. Dean highlighted how the Department of Justice and OJJDP are addressing youth homelessness. This includes OJJDP’s work with the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to collect data directly from youth by adding several questions on living arrangements to the National Survey of Youth in Custody. The survey is part of BJS’ National Prison Rape Statistics program, which gathers mandated data on the incidence and prevalence of sexual assault in juvenile facilities under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.

Survey questions included:

  • Who was responsible for taking care of you when you were growing up?
  • At the time you were first taken into custody for the crime(s) that led to your stay here, who were you living with?
  • Was this grandparent/other relative/grand parent or other relative a foster parent?
  • At the time you were first taken into custody for the crime that led to your stay here, were you homeless, living in a shelter, or other temporary housing?

Data collection is underway and OJJDP hopes that these data will provide a valuable snapshot of the living arrangements of youth entering the juvenile justice system. Through the use of individualized assessments and reentry and transition planning, facilities will be better able to support youth in transition to safe and stable housing upon release.

OJJDP remains dedicated to addressing youth homelessness. “Our agency goals are to enhance public safety, ensure accountability, and empower youth. However, I also plan to address issues faced by homeless youth,” said Administrator Harp. “Criminalizing homelessness further marginalizes and disadvantages this already vulnerable youth population, which does no one any good.”