Assessing Homeless Youths’ Access to Services

In October 2017, Tipping Point Community (TPC) contracted with On The Move to develop and launch aa project to locate, engage, stabilize, and support older foster care eligible youth who are at risk of homelessness or other negative outcomes, while compiling and tracking data on the demographics, experiences, and needs of these youth. The project was designed around teams of peer-to-peer case managers, with specialized support from a civil legal advocate, social worker, and/or mental health clinician as needed.

While developing the SPARK project, On The Move worked alongside TPC staff as well as with youth with recent lived experience of homelessness, foster care, and/or juvenile justice systems in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. Their goal was to locate and engage homeless youth who have current or previous foster care involvement or are eligible for the protections of the foster care system, and to support them in transitioning from homelessness to stability.

Developing Collaborative Relationships & Co-Located Partnerships

SPARK Youth Peer Advocates have developed a broad range of collaborative relationships with local service providers in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, resulting in hundreds of referrals of eligible youth. Each referral validates that there are many transition age youth who, despite their eligibility for foster care, are not currently able to access the protections, services, supports, and housing provided by the system.

These co-location relationships are essential in building trust among the youth as well as among local service providers. SPARK is designed to support existing services – not to duplicate services. It is imperative that service providers can see the value in the peer-to-peer model that SPARK utilizes in order to assist the young person in taking full advantage of services that are available to them.

Working Directly with Homeless Youth & Connecting Them to Resources

While working to support the community of homeless youth providers, SPARK staff have also stayed true to their mission of working directly with homeless foster youth to support their success and transition from homelessness.

SPARK staff and Youth Peer Advocates work to develop positive and trusting relationships and to assess each individual’s needs and strengths. This information is used to develop youth-driven, individualized case plans (“Life Plans”) that specify goals and strategies across life domains. Once goals are identified, the SPARK staff broker service access, advocate to remove barriers, and support the development of resiliency factors.