In February, TNOYS was excited to relaunch the Statewide Collaborative on Youth Homelessness after a 2-year hiatus. The collaborative’s first meeting of 2022 welcomed more than 100 state agency leaders, service providers, and members of TNOYS’ Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) to build alignment as we work to prevent and end youth homelessness in Texas. With the recognition that much has changed in the last two years, TNOYS believes it is more important than ever to elevate resources and initiatives such as investments through the American Rescue Plan, Texas’ five Youth Homelessness Demonstration Programs (YHDPs), and support available through state agencies.
The meeting kicked off with an introduction from TNOYS Executive Director Fedora Galasso, who shared takeaways from recent work to listen to and learn from youth experiencing homelessness. Next, the group heard from TNOYS Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) members Helaina and Tatyana and TNOYS Training Specialist Alex Polk, all young adults who have experienced homelessness. Helaina, Tatyana, and Alex explained the importance of bringing young people with lived experiences like themselves into the conversation and shared their own experiences with homelessness and the support they wished had been accessible.
Updates from Five State Agencies
The meeting then shifted to updates from special guests representing multiple state agencies. To start, McKinney-Vento State Coordinator Cal Lopez spoke on resources through the Texas Education Agency, including an upcoming webinar to learn about the American Rescue Plan Federal Grant Application and opportunities on TEA’s grant portal. The group also heard updates from Naomi Cantu of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, who discussed the HOME Investment Partnerships American Rescue Plan Program (HOME-ARP). Naomi detailed plans for HOME-ARP funding including non-congregate shelters, affordable rental housing, and administration and planning.
Next, Jim Currier from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs shared information on DFPS’ Transitional Living Services Division Housing Program, which helps youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood with housing and rental assistance. Providers are encouraged to visit the Housing Program web page to learn more.
Todd Latiolais from the Texas Governor’s Office Child Sex Trafficking Team (CSTT) and Ben Holquist with the Texas Workforce Commission presented the final agency updates. Mr. Latiolais expressed the importance of addressing youth homelessness in the work to prevent Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth (CSEY). He also shared the CSTT’s work to increase the state’s capacity to serve youth who have experienced CSEY.
Updates from Ben Holquist included the Texas Workforce Commission’s efforts to implement Senate Bill 2054, new legislation that was passed thanks in part to TNOYS’ efforts. The legislation helps fund fees for new licenses and driver’s education for youth in foster care or experiencing homelessness, eliminating barriers to access for this population. The Commission is anticipated to adopt proposed rules to create the Youth Driver Education Program at an upcoming meeting. TWC is working out program details and hopes to launch it soon.
Learning from the Experiences of Texas’ YHDP Programs
To close out the meeting, four of Texas’ Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) grantees addressed the group. Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), YHDP is an exciting initiative that supports select communities in implementing a coordinated community approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness. This measure is unique because selected communities work closely with youth advisory boards, putting the power of youth-adult partnership into action.
LifeWorks, Heart of Texas Region MHMR, Coalition for the Homeless, and Tarrant County Homeless Coalition discussed their milestones as recipients of YHDP funding. As all four YHDP grantees are at various stages of planning or implementation, they provided updates such as the experience of scaling up Rapid Rehousing programs, efforts to improve wrap-around services, partnerships with local youth collectives, the beginning stages of planning and more. The organizations also talked about their efforts to scale up with the support of subgrantees and contractors, as well as plans to evaluate these initiatives, learn from data, and iterate.
Join Our Efforts
TNOYS welcomes community organizations, agency stakeholders, and youth and young adults with lived experience to join our upcoming Statewide Collaborative meetings. The Statewide Collaborative will meet on a quarterly basis and mostly in a virtual format with plans to bring all stakeholders together in a physical space at the end of August. TNOYS is finalizing details now, but will soon launch workgroups on Policy Reform, YHDP collaboration, and potentially a third workgroup still to be determined. If you are interested in getting involved, please email Director of Public Policy Lauren Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.