Jefferson County, PA – Volunteers will be combing Jefferson County on Wednesday to identify how many homeless people there are and get them the help they need. It’s called the Point-in-Time Survey, but one new study says that surveys like this might be skimming over some kinds of homelessness.

If you know someone who is homeless or needs help, please call the following:

  • Jefferson County Community Action at 814-938-3302
  • Clearfield County Community Action at 814-768-7200
  • Clarion County Community Action at 814-226-4785

A first-of-its-kind survey found the rate of homelessness among young adults to be much higher than previous studies have indicated.

Matthew Morton, a research fellow with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, said through a large, national phone survey, researchers found that 1-in-10 young adults, age 18-25, has been homeless at some point during the last 12 months.

“While this is alarming, it’s not necessarily surprising,” Morton said. “Street-based counts miss young people who are experiencing more hidden forms of homelessness, like sleeping in a vehicle or couch-surfing.”

Morton said 1-in-30 adolescents age 13-17 also experienced homelessness over the same period. The research found fully one-third of all the homeless young people either were pregnant or trying to raise a child without a safe, reliable place to stay.

He said there are strong arguments to be made for focusing more attention and resources on homeless youth. For instance, many of those who are now chronically homeless started young. But Morton said they could be helped by early intervention.

“The longer a young person experiences homelessness, the harder it is to help those young people,” he said. “And even brief spells can put young people at significant risk of abuse, of exploitation.”

Morton said homeless young people aren’t just hard to count, traditional research tends to paint an inaccurate picture of homelessness in general. He said 24-hour surveys of shelters and streets make that population look older and better connected to public services than it really is.

Morton added with funding from Congress, they were able to work with Gallup to run what he described as “the most comprehensive study ever” – a phone poll that reached 26,000 people.

“We’ve never had a nationally representative, population-based survey,” he said. “So, this is unprecedented, and policymakers have largely been forced to operate in the dark.”

Morton said homelessness is more common in already marginalized populations, such as young people of color, and LGBTQ youth. While foster placements, juvenile incarceration and teen pregnancy rates are mostly down over the last 20 years, he said they won’t know how the number of homeless young people is trending until they can repeat the survey.

More information and links to the full study are available at ChapinHall.org.

The Point-in-Time survey counts people who are residing in places not usually meant as living spaces, such as cars, parks, sidewalks, abandoned buildings, or on the street. However, it doesn’t count people who are temporarily living with friends or “couch-surfing.”

If you suspect someone is homeless or needs help, please contact Community Action.


Like Connect FM on Facebook for more local news each day:

Related Stories: