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Consultant selected, tasked with creating action plan to end youth homelessness

Matthew Aronson and his team of consultants will build on the City's work to end youth homelessness in Boston.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced today that the City of Boston has selected Matthew Aronson and his team of consultants to build on the city's work to end youth homelessness in Boston by researching and creating an action plan to support young individuals experiencing homelessness and put them on a pathways towards stable housing. Mr. Aronson and his team are charged with assisting the City in gathering data on youth and young adults experiencing homeless, understanding the current system's capacity, identifying the unmet needs of youth and young adults, and designing a plan to address gaps in Boston's emergency assistance system that will end youth homelessness.

"I'm very proud of our efforts to redesign the way we deliver services and housing to people in Boston who are experiencing homelessness," Mayor Walsh said. "We have taken significant steps forward, but we need to take that experience and success and build a new approach -- one that will make sure that every one of our young people has a stable home that allows them to work towards a better life."

Through the efforts of Boston's Way Home, Mayor Walsh's initiative to end veteran and chronic homelessness, Boston has made progress in preventing and ending homelessness among single adults, including ending chronic veteran homelessness and housing more than 450 chronically homeless individuals. Using national and local best practices, Boston has transformed its homelessness services into a coordinated and integrated system based on Housing First principles. The City is currently seeking proposals to further support people experiencing homelessness in existing shelter as quickly as possible, while ensuring they are connected with proper resources. Building on this success, the City and its partners are now turning their focus to tackling the prevalence of homelessness among unaccompanied youth and young adults.

"We envision a future where Boston effectively ends homelessness and housing instability among youth and young adults," Mr. Aronson said. "We are thrilled to have been chosen for this work, and we believe that we will be able to develop a plan that ensures every youth or young adult facing homelessness is safe, supported, and able to fully utilize their strengths. We believe in a future where every young person has access to effective and coordinated housing, education, employment, and health-related resources."

Mr. Aronson and his team have worked with communities at the national, state, and local levels on issues of ending youth and young adult homelessness. Mr. Aronson served for seven years as a subject matter expert on youth and young adult homelessness for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. In that role, he wrote Federal policy, designed pilot projects, collaborated with national leaders in both the public and private sectors, and worked directly with communities including New York City, Cincinnati, and Santa Cruz to develop coordinated community plans to end homelessness among local youth and young adults.

His colleagues include Dr. Alice Colegrove, Ayala Livny, Jamila Bradley and Lauren Leonardis. Several members of the team are currently co-authoring Massachusetts' state plan to end youth homelessness, while Dr. Colegrove, Ms. Livny, and Ms. Bradley are founding board members of the Y2Y shelter in Harvard Square. Ms.Leonardis, Ms. Bradley, and Ms. Livny are the founding co-facilitators of the Boston Youth Action Board. The team has combined decades of experience running and providing consulting services to myriad programs working with youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. 

The Walsh Administration has laid the groundwork to tackle youth homelessness: in October 2016, Boston formed a Youth Homelessness Leadership Team, which will be reconvened to serve as the steering committee to support the creation of a coordinated youth homelessness response system. This team has also identified gaps in the system and will create a Youth Homelessness Resource Map to catalogue the local organizations that provide housing and services to homeless youth.

In addition, the City has convened a Youth Action Board, which assisted in the creation of a system map and will help the Leadership Team to prioritize services needed in Boston.

"In order to reach a resolution you have to hear not just one voice but all of them," said Dustin Pardy, Boston Youth Action Board member.  "You need to ask those who have been affected by homelessness. When my opinions are valued by people from the City it means a whole lot to me. My voice is being heard through the Youth Action Board."

To support this work, the City will also receive technical assistance from HUD in the development and implementation of this plan.

"As an agency which has provided comprehensive wraparound services for homeless youth and young adults in Boston for 47 years, Bridge Over Troubled Waters is grateful to Mayor Walsh and the City for their commitment to providing homeless youth with opportunities that will set them on a path to successful futures and prevent homelessness in the long term," said Elisabeth Jackson, Executive Director of Bridge Over Troubled Waters. "Despite their vulnerability, homeless youth have many strengths and talents and the desire to move forward in their lives. We are excited to continue our partnership with the City and work with the new consulting team in this important effort to create the coordinated, age-appropriate system of housing and support that will reach every homeless young person in Boston and ensure that they all can achieve and sustain a place to call home."

While a number of City and State agencies and community organizations work with youth and young adults who are at-risk or experiencing homelessness in Boston, these services, interventions and resources are often not designed for the unique developmental needs of youth and young adults. Agencies offer programs that do not yet function as a coordinated system, and while Boston has begun to see promising new partnerships, there is a clear need to create a coordinated system that led to the City's success with adult individual homelessness.

Creation of a coordinated plan is critical to preventing and ending homelessness among youth and young adults. At the end of the engagement, Boston will have an action plan to prevent and end youth homelessness, which will:

  • Be owned by the stakeholders it affects;
  • Be created in full partnership with youth and young adults;
  • Openly and intentionally address issues of marginalization and disparity;
  • Utilize both qualitative and quantitative data to inform decisions;
  • Be created iteratively and will be regularly adapted to improve the process as new information and practices become available.
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