Youth Engagement Team Initiative (YETI) Report
November 2016 Edition
Recent Youth News & Updates
Youth Count Words of Wisdom
Waterbury was the first city in the state to conduct an annual Youth Count and have been doing so since 2013. Jill Schoenfuss of StayWell Health Center in the Waterbury/Litchfield Coordinated Access Network has been a leader in facilitating these Youth Counts and is heading her YETI for success this year. She has many words of wisdom for communities new to the undertaking this year.
To begin the process, Waterbury established a committee dedicated to the issue of youth homelessness and tasked with coordinating and implementing the Youth Count. These groups, now referred to as “YETIs” or Youth Engagement Team Initiatives, should include individuals from a range of youth-serving organizations, including social service providers, the Department of Children and Families, public schools, McKinney-Vento Liaisons, United Way, and other community stakeholders.
Never too Many Hotspots: Draw in as many organizational Hotspots as possible. Hotspots are places identified as popular hang outs for homeless or at-risk youth, including after-school programs, libraries, domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters. While this will help you to cover the entire layout of the region, it is always best to over identify locations, as teams should be taking into consideration that some of those contacts may fall through.
Overcoming the Challenges of Youth Volunteers: Youth and young adult volunteers are an important asset to have canvassing in your region’s Youth Count. According to some focus groups in Fairfield County, while teenagers prefer to be approached by older people, young adults are more likely to respond well to people within their peer group. Though young adults volunteers are preferred by both age groups, it is important to train these volunteers in outreach, as it can be challenging.
Youth and young adult volunteers have a tendency to be more reserved in approaching potentially homeless and unstably housed individuals than others. Additional training is recommended to help them overcome these barriers. In Waterbury, they also send younger volunteers with older, more experienced canvassers. This can be a great way of making sure the surveys are completed correctly and may remove some of their potential inhibition.
Weather Conditions: When planning YETI meetings and other youth engagement related activities and meetings to prepare for the Youth Count, keep in mind that winters in Connecticut can introduce the additional barrier of dangerous weather conditions. Plan ahead for snow days, as youth programs may not be able to provide an alternative date due to their busy schedules.
Incentives: It is also important to provide incentives to youth participants. One way Waterbury has done this is by including some people from a local bank on the committee and utilizing their connections to secure incentives. Incentives range from prizes to gift cards to encourage participation in the count.
Follow-up: The Youth Count is one of the only opportunities YETIs may have to outreach to a particular youth or young adult struggling with homelessness or housing instability. It is important to meet young people where they are at and offer them information as follow-up to the survey because they are often the least likely to reach out for assistance. As a result of informing youth about youth services in their area, drop-ins and youth accessing services increased.
Waterbury is taking steps to improve the Youth Count and pass on ideas and suggestions to other communities. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and successful strategies!
Previous YETI Reports: