In February 2017 there was a statewide youth count that surveyed youth from ages 16 to 24 to help determine their housing stability. It is estimated in the Greater Hartford area there is 1,258 youth who are homeless or unstably housed. Homelessness influences young people’s lives in many ways with regard to their physical and mental health and their overall life trajectory.

Young people experiencing housing instability have a history of contact with many systems – education, juvenile justice, child welfare and law enforcement. Unfortunately, no one entity has ongoing responsibility for them. To prevent this cycle, it is essential to develop a coordinated response to youth who are experiencing housing instability in Connecticut. The solution to this problem is to create a broad set of interventions including policy change, discharge plans that reduce rate of becoming homeless, reunification with family when safe and appropriate, education and employment supports, individualized care plans, and a range of housing options tailored for youth.

One way to be able to look at the data from these different systems is by creating a system dynamic model. System dynamic modeling offers a tool for stakeholders to see the system as a whole, allowing for an understanding of a wide range of factors and risks, how intervention delivery systems interact, and the impact that national and state policy might have on solving the problem. A computer simulation model is built by stakeholders using data from existing secondary data sources, the literature, and information on current policies and programs. Once developed, the model is used by stakeholders to plan effective interventions and to use for legislative advocacy, demonstrating to legislators where best to allocate resources and how policy changes will impact the problem and at what cost.

There are two phases to this project. The first phase, which is now complete, included gathering community stakeholders to map the problem of youth homelessness. Journey Home is now fundraising to complete the second phase of the project, which includes gathering the data and building the simulation model.