January 10, 2023

No Place Like Home: JBAY’s Advocacy Leads to 21% Reduction in Youth Homelessness

No Place Like Home: JBAY’s Advocacy Leads to 21% Reduction in Youth Homelessness

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its latest figures on the number of unaccompanied homeless youth in California and the news is good.

Between 2020 and 2022, California experienced a 21% reduction in the number of unaccompanied homeless youth. This is in contrast to homelessness overall in California, which increased by 6%.

John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) Advocate Cody Van Felden knows firsthand how much this reduction means. She was first homeless at age 16 and again as a college student at Sacramento City College. She has slept in a car, on people’s couches and on numerous floors.

Cody knows the fear and hopelessness that accompany being without safe, stable housing. And she knows that each number represents a person, with real dreams and hopes.

Given this experience, the reduction in youth homelessness means a lot to her. “This 21% decrease is the start of youth having a chance in life, to follow their dreams rather than face the difficulties of homelessness that are often out of their control.”

Since 2020, Cody has led the charge at JBAY on proposals to reduce youth homelessness. She played an instrumental role in JBAY’s work to establish a “youth set-aside” in the state’s main programs to address homelessness. This included conducting legislative visits and providing expert testimony. Thanks to the work of JBAY and youth advocates like Cody, California’s youth are feeling the impact of investing in the Homeless Housing, Assistance & Prevention (HHAP) program.

While the 21% reduction is impressive, JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley understands the work is far from done. “The number is going in the right direction, but we are not there yet,” said Lemley. “California has the creativity and financial resources to ensure that every youth begins their adulthood with a roof over their head.”

In 2023, JBAY will use two strategies to achieve this goal. The first is a proposal to “functionally end” youth homelessness by helping up to 10 communities implement strategies proven to radically reduce homelessness.

JBAY will also advocate to make HHAP, California’s main program to address homelessness, permanent. This program is a key factor in the reduction of homelessness among unaccompanied youth in California. However, it is slated to end in 2027. JBAY will work with groups across California to make the case for this important program to receive permanent funding.

In the past, Cody would have never dreamed this kind of progress was possible. But today, she knows that her voice matters and that she can use it to make a difference.

“I want all youth to thrive because I know what it is to have that chance taken away. Solving homelessness is how it starts!”