This study, funded by the New York Community Trust and in partnership with CSH, develops a typology of six groups of youth based on their service use and housing outcomes for the three years after they exit homeless services or foster care. It combines data from a number of systems to identify comprehensive service use profiles for discrete groups of youth. Utilizing this approach allows the analysis to be multi-dimensional and represent multiple service needs of youth in each group, while also recognizing overarching differences among groups. In order to be actionable and to further demonstrate the distinction among groups, this study aims to help inform which groups of youth may need more services or interventions. It also helps to describe the relative size of different outcome pathways for youth to better understand the needed capacity of different resources across a spectrum.
The sample consists of 8,795 individuals who were 18 to 21 years old when they exited from foster care or homeless shelters. All individuals exited between July 2011 and 2013. The outcome period for the study is three years from the individual’s exit from foster care or a homeless shelter. Sequence analysis was used to visualize, describe, and group patterns of service use among individuals during the outcome period. The youth were grouped into outcome categories using a hierarchical clustering algorithm. In other words, the groups were not predefined; they arose from the data. This type of unsupervised machine learning has the potential to uncover groups that are otherwise hidden in the data. Once the outcome groups were determined, descriptive profiles of each were developed. Predictive models were created using characteristics and experiences of the youth from prior to their exit from foster care or homeless shelters. These models help illuminate which factors contribute most to the probability of a youth ending up in an outcome group.
Based on the service use patterns of youth who exited foster care and homeless shelters, six outcome groups were developed: (1) Minimal Service Use, (2) Later Homeless Experience, (3) Earlier Homeless Experience, (4) Consistent Subsidized Housing, (5) Consistent Supportive Housing, and (6) Frequent Jail Stays. The vast majority of youth (68%) were in the Minimal Service Use group. Each group had a dominant system that was used, but they also had distinctive patterns of service use in other domains. Among these groups, Minimal Service Use, Consistent Supportive Housing, and Consistent Subsidized Housing were the most stable with four to six system transitions over the course of three years, while the other groups had eight to nine transitions on average. These three groups also had less homeless shelter and jail stays than the other groups.
These groups were not only distinctive based on their descriptive profiles, but also based on factors that predicted which youth would be in which group. Notable predictors for most groups included gender, race, age at exit, and exit system. Previous service use in different domains that varied by group was also predictive for all groups.
Understanding the factors that are predictive of membership in each of these groups can allow services to be better targeted to youth who may need them. It is particularly notable that one of the most prominent factors in determining a youth’s pathway is which system they exited from. It clearly shows that youth who exited from foster care during this time accessed permanent housing options at much higher rates and had stays in homeless shelters and jail at lower rates than youth exiting from homeless shelters through DYCD and DHS. Efforts to move toward a coordinated entry system should ensure youth can access all resources regardless of which system they enter through.
This study supports the goals of preventing and ending youth homelessness and ensuring New York City is a place where all youth can prosper and thrive, regardless of their demographics or life experiences.
Funded by the New York Community Trust
In collaboration with the Corporation for Supportive Housing
NYC Administration for Children's Services
NYC Department of Youth and Community Development
NYC Department of Homeless Services
NYC Human Resources Administration
NYC Department of Correction
NYC Housing Authority