An unknown, but significant, number of Colorado youth are homeless and on their own. A homeless youth lacks a fixed, regular and adequate residence, or has a primary nighttime residence that is in a supervised shelter for temporary accommodations, an institution providing temporary residence or a public or private place not designated for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings. While the specific number of homeless youth in Colorado is unknown, recent statewide homeless counts indicated that approximately 1500 unaccompanied youth were homeless on just one night in Colorado. National experts estimate that approximately 7% of adolescents experience at least one episode of unaccompanied homelessness.
The Legislature passed the Homeless Youth Services Act in 2002 in response to the overwhelming and diverse needs of homeless youth in Colorado. The intent of this legislation was to create a vehicle, through which services to homeless youth statewide could be improved by coordinating current services and facilitating interagency collaboration to identify gaps, remove barriers, improve access and share information.
Initially, the Office of Homeless Youth Services (OHYS) was housed under the Colorado Department Public Health and Environment however; due to funding barriers the OHYS was in operation for just one year (July 2002 through June 2003) with a half-time staff position. On May 21, 2004 the Governor signed House Bill 1107, authorizing the transfer of the Office of Homeless Youth Services from the Department of Public Health and Environment to the Department of Human Services, Division of Supportive Housing and Homeless Programs (SHHP). A full time Homeless Youth Coordinator position was created, supported with federal funding administered by SHHP. The OHYS became fully operational in December 2004.
The office provides information, coordination and support services to public and private entities serving the homeless youth of Colorado. It identifies procedural and substantive obstacles to the provision of services and makes recommendations for procedural, regulatory or statutory changes to remove them; and it develops and maintains a clearinghouse of information on services and funding sources available for services to homeless youth. A five-year strategic plan was developed by stakeholders from across Colorado and is currently being implemented.