Youth Initiative

Young Adult Leadership Committee logo

Young Adult Leadership Committee

The Young Adult Leadership Committee (YALC) was created out of the Office of Homeless Services Continuum of Care Board with the goal of advising the Board and Homeless Services on ways to make the system better for youth. YALC works on goals and projects around preventing and ending youth homelessness and is made up of young adults with experience of homelessness.

Youth Access Points


Youth access points are youth-friendly, youth-specific locations where young adults ages 18-24 in Philadelphia who are experiencing homelessness can go to be assessed for resources within the homeless assistance system. The youth access point is operated by the Valley Youth House, as part of our homeless assistance system.

Download the Youth Access Points Flyer 

View the report shown in the photos below.
Young Adult Leadership Committee 2017 highlights

Young Adult Leadership Committee 2017 highlights second page

Philadelphia Youth Homelessness Needs Assessment

April 2018
Jessica Sones
MSW Youth System Coordinator

The Philadelphia Youth Homelessness Needs Assessment is the result of a four-month collaborative process involving public and private stakeholders, including youth with lived experience. The assessment analyzes the current needs and resources for youth experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia, and uses this analysis to determine current service gaps and proposed solutions. The needs assessment is informed by multiple data sets gathered over the past two years, recognizing there is neither a definitive methodology for estimating the number of youth experiencing homelessness nor a standard, widely agreed-upon definition of youth homelessness. The format of this assessment will present gaps analysis and service needs and proposed recommendations first, and then will present the data which informs these recommendations.

Read the Report



Philly Homes 4 Youth Coalition

The coalition is a group of dedicated individuals from over 30 public and private youth-serving organizations, as well as young people with experience with homelessness, who have come together with the goal of ending youth homelessness in Philadelphia.
Vital documents for Youth toolkit cover

overview text of youth toolkit

Local Information and Action – Voices of Youth Count 2017

Read information from the Forum on Youth Homelessness run by the Office of Homeless Services, Philly Homes 4 Youth Coalition and the Young Adult Leadership Committee with a panel discussion on the Voices of Youth Count report on youth homelessness in Philadelphia. Panel was Jessica Sones, Liam Spady, Jenny Pokempner, Libby Mathewson and Jospeh Hill-Coles.  Forum Moderators were Hazel Edwards and Bob Listenbee. Click on the images below to download or read the information.

forum on youth homelessness report

youth experiencing homelessness graphic

Voices of Youth Count Reports

September 2017, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago

Click on the images below to download each report.
Voice of Youth Count philadelphia report

Forum on Youth Homelessness

November 28, 2017

Remarks at the forum from Liz Hersh, Director, Office of Homeless Services

We are here today to listen to the Voices of Youth and to make sure that their voices count.

Being a teenager should be a time of self-exploration, fun, identity, sports, arts, music, social life. It shouldn’t be a life or death struggle to find a safe place to sleep, enough food to eat, a bathroom to sneak into to wash or change your clothes. They shouldn’t have to trade sex for a couch to sleep on or wonder where they can possibly do their homework because they have no home. In fact, one in 10 young people in America experience homelessness. We can and must do better. And the only way we can do that is to look unflinchingly at the facts. That’s what research is all about.

The Voices of Youth count is a truth-telling, it is information about the plight in which 1 in 10 young people in America find themselves. Philadelphia welcomes the facts this study brings and the insights of our caring community so we can help youth begin to rewrite their own future histories – because we can. We are here today to explore solutions. I am excited to hear what our panel has to say today. I am so proud of their work and I am proud to see the standing room only crowd here of caring people coming together to help.

I also want to take a moment to tell you a little about what we at the City are and have been doing already around youth homelessness. Because we are also focused on solutions, taking action.

In spring of 2016, thanks to our vocal and well-organized advocates, City Council held hearings around youth homelessness to bring attention and resources to the issue. The result was $500,000 in new funds for youth homelessness. Through a competitive process, five organizations came together to create a unique collaborative that created 25 emergency beds and 25 rapid rehousing units, and a continuum of supportive services including employment, reconnection to school, counseling all with a special sensitivity to the unique needs of LGBTQ youth.

This year we added a brand new community navigator position which Joseph Hill-Coles fills, a direct result of youth input about how to better reach young people who are struggling, alone and isolated.

Philadelphia was the first city in the country to launch a 100 Day Challenge to end youth homelessness, a strategy that the federal government then replicated. This work has continued and evolved into the Philly Homes 4 Youth Coalition with over 30 service providers working together to address youth homelessness. Their call to action is on your handouts because City government cannot solve this alone. It’s all hands on deck.

We established the Young Adult Leadership Committee—made up of youth ages 16-24 with lived experience – to make sure that they had a seat at the table and a voice in how to improve things. As you see today, involving youth as leaders is how we work.

We created the position of Youth System Coordinator, Jessica Sones, who many of you know, who is doing a phenomenal job.

The homeless system did not previously recognize the unique needs of youth. At age 18 you are an adult. So we are now working hard to make our services more youth-friendly and appropriate. To that end, we are establishing two new youth access points at Valley Youth House and Attic Youth Center to launch in January 2018. In the past 6 months have featured trainings on Positive Youth Development, resiliency and trauma-informed care with Dr. Ken Ginsburg and created a learning series for providers.

We are very proud of our proactive and inclusive approach to addressing youth homelessness, but we also know it is not enough. The information from the Voices of Youth count enables us to accelerate solutions by deepening our understanding – and yours – of how we can give every young person a chance for the future they deserve. Young people are resilient and hopeful. Our job is to help them achieve.

Thank you.

Read the comments made by four panelists at the 11 28 2017 VOYC panel discussions:

Joseph Hill-Coles
Libby Mathewson

Jessica Sones
Liam Spady

Bleak Statistics, Hopeful Discussion At Philadelphia Forum On Homeless Youth

Philadelphia first City to use  Rapid Results Institute’s 100 Day model to create team focused on youth homelessness.

OHS held a 100 Day Street Homeless Challenge in June, 2016, before the 100 Day/A Way Home America cities began their work. Following a Philadelphia City Council hearing and testimony by young people with experience of homelessness and youth service providers and advocates, City Council made a commitment of $500,000 to increase housing and services for young adults in spring, 2016. OHS contributed an additional $200,000.

Philly Homes 4 Youth Coalition (a continuation of the 100 Day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness)

The coalition is a group of dedicated individuals from over 30 public and private youth-serving organizations, as well as young people with experience with homelessness, who have come together with the goal of ending youth homelessness in Philadelphia. It evolved out of the 100 Day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness, which was spearheaded by the Office of Homeless Services (OHS). Philadelphia was the first City to utilize the Rapid Results Institute’s 100 Day model to create a team focused on youth homelessness. This initiative was an unprecedented effort to bring together Philadelphia’s public and private youth-serving entities, with the goal of improving the systems of care for youth at risk of or currently experiencing homelessness.

philly homes 4 youth coalition photo

Housing for Youth Collaborative

youth forum speaker liz hersh at youth forum
City Council held hearings in spring 2016 on youth homelessness and partnered with OHS to provide an additional $700,000 to address this crisis. Through a competitive process, Homeless Services selected a coalition of five youth-serving organizations as the collaborative applicant. The collaborative consists of five agencies: Attic Youth Center, Covenant House, Pathways PA, Valley Youth House and Youth Services, Inc.

The Collaborative began services in fall 2016 and will provide:

25 new crisis beds, adding capacity to serve 150 youth annually 25 rapid re-housing beds with a minimum of 6 months rental assistance Job training and employment support for 75 youth Community navigator services for 120 youth Counseling, mentoring and/or supportive services for 55 youth LGBTQ competency training for homeless service providers