Pete Colbenson: Counting Kids on the Streets

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In the season of warm fuzzy sweaters and family get-togethers, many young people in Georgia have but one New Year’s resolution – a safe place to sleep at night.  An unknown number of teenagers and young adults are alone and homeless in Georgia. Who they are and where they are – no one knows much about them.

For the first time Georgia is undertaking an ambitious project to count a representative sample of these homeless youth statewide, and develop a uniform reporting system.

Funded by the Governor’s Office for Families and Children, the project takes place during the last week of January. The Homeless Youth Count Project is part of a bi-annual census of homeless people of all ages, mandated by HUD.  As part of this initiative The State Department of Community Affairs is sending out a questionnaire to service providers in 152 counties, which for the first time, will ask for specific information about homeless young people, 24 and younger. Local agency staffers and volunteers will visit homeless shelters, transitional living centers, meal programs, and unsheltered sites such as abandoned buildings, alleys and parks where kids hang out.

A more intensive count will take place in Atlanta, Fulton, DeKalb and Chatham Counties, where we’re recruiting and training survey teams of homeless young people to go out and interview other homeless kids. Youth surveyors will earn $80 a day, while interviewees will get $5 meal vouchers.

We expect it will take three months to process and analyze the information from around the state.  A math professor at Kennesaw State University will aggregate the raw date for a demographic analysis.  A report is due out in May that should give the state – for the first time - a better understanding of the extent and characteristics of young people who are homeless.

If you are interested in volunteering for this project, please contact Pete Colbenson at 404 275 7494 or pete_colbenson@bellsouth.net.

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Pete Colbenson, Ph.D. is the project coordinator working with Covenant House in Atlanta, which is the lead agency for the Homeless Youth Count. Pete is also a consultant for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.

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