Exploring the Principles for Change: Youth Homelessness and Juvenile Justice Involvement

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice partnered with the National Network for Youth (NN4Y) and National League of Cities’ (NLC) Institute for Youth, Education, and Families to lead the initiative’s “Collaborating for Change.” With its main focus on youth, the initiative assembled stakeholders from various sectors to provide safeguards for the prevention of those who have experienced the juvenile justice system from later becoming homeless, as well as urging communities to have concern and cultivate support for their homeless youth rather than criminalize them.

There are a number of reasons why youth’s involvement in the juvenile justice system and homelessness intersect and both have long-term negative effects, according to the report. Factors such as a juvenile’s delinquency record can prohibit them from obtaining adequate employment in the future and diminish the possibility of their stability. Conversely, the occurrence of youth experiencing homelessness also being arrested for breaking a law like juvenile curfew leaves them with a criminal record for their circumstances.

The ten “principles for change” produced by the initiative serve as a “how-to” that includes what measures need to be taken in order to avoid involvement with juvenile justice whenever possible, provide adequate transitional support when such involvement cannot be avoided, ensure safe housing and opportunities for youth and their families, and protect youth of color and other over-represented populations, as well as youth of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) and gender non-conforming (GNC) communities.

Further, the report addresses what can be done among various groups ranging from stakeholders, local, state and federal policymakers, and courts, to schools, professionals, the child-welfare systems, and community based agencies. The key principles drive home the importance of the collective effort that will substantiate changes and gives attention to the significance of youth helping to lead and implement these changes.

In addition to the suggestions for change advocated by the report, included are highlights in which these recommendations have been implemented. For example, the national campaign “Houses Not Handcuffs” aims to “stop the criminalization of homelessness, and push for effective housing policies that end homelessness,” and is led by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. Also, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education have both addressed the need for review and revision of laws and barriers affecting homeless youth.

Access the full report here.

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About Sable Locci 12 Articles
Sable is a student currently residing in Los Angeles. She's an enthusiast of all things creative and performing arts and interns for The Chronicle of Social Change.