Improving Homeless Services for Youth in Cuyahoga County

Author: Elizabeth Burton
Date Posted: June 15, 2023

The number of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness continues to increase in Cleveland and across the country due to personal challenges and systemic barriers, such as lack of safe and affordable housing and poverty. The Center on Poverty and Community Development (CPCD) at Case Western Reserve University partnered with the Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services (OHS) to analyze administrative data and to support OHS’s efforts to understand the unhoused experiences of youth in order to prevent homelessness. This partnership and OHS’s data-informed strategies led to OHS’s Continuum of Care program receiving an additional $3.9 million of federal funding for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, which will fund a pilot program to address barriers to serving youth and young adults.

OHS and their partners in OhioMeansJobs (OMJ), a joint workforce training agency for the City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the State of Ohio, wanted to understand how well workforce training and employment support were serving young adults experiencing homelessness. CPCD integrated administrative data from OMJ with OHS’s Homeless Management Information System and CPCD’s CHILD System, a cross-system database with individual-level administrative data from 35 sources spanning nearly four decades. Few youth overlapped in the two data systems, revealing that youth experiencing homelessness were largely not receiving the needed employment and workforce support from OMJ. Furthermore, the analysis uncovered a large disparity between male and female youth who received support from OMJ. Around 80 percent of the Cleveland metro area’s youth experiencing homelessness are female, while 80 percent of the youth who received training from OMJ were male. To address this finding, OHS developed a pilot program to provide youth experiencing homelessness with intensive referrals to employment services alongside case management. CPCD will track the outcomes of the pilot program to determine whether it helps youth become employed with sufficient incomes.

CPCD also worked directly with OHS and the Continuum of Care to identify other service gaps and to understand youth’s experiences before and after becoming homeless. CPCD’s valuable insights into the lived experiences of and systemic barriers faced by youth experiencing homelessness have helped OHS adapt and add needed preventative services to address the conditions leading to unhoused youth and young adults.

This story was written by Elizabeth Burton at the Urban Institute, with the support of Joe Andre from the Center on Poverty and Community Development (CPCD) at Case Western Reserve University and Allison Gill from Cuyahoga County’s Office of Homeless Services. NNIP is a learning network, coordinated by the Urban Institute, that connects independent partner organizations in more than 30 cities. The Center on Poverty and Community Development at Case Western Reserve University is the NNIP partner in Cleveland.

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