February 2022

Connecting With Youth Experiencing Homelessness Across Maryland

February 28, 2022    |  

Youth REACH (Reach Out, Engage, Assist and Count to end Homelessness) MD  is launching its fourth survey and census of youth and young adults who are on their own and experiencing homelessness and housing instability across the state. The survey helps identify the number of youth experiencing homelessness and seeks to understand both their experiences and the kind of support services they need. State and local agencies and service providers use the information gathered through the survey to develop and improve policies, services, and interventions to better meet the needs of young people, and to focus resources on ending and preventing youth homelessness in Maryland.

Across Maryland, thousands of youth and young adults are living on their own and experiencing homelessness and housing instability, unsure of where they will sleep each night. Homelessness exists for a variety of reasons, including systemic and institutional barriers such as a lack of safe and affordable housing, poverty, and structural racism. Additionally, youth may experience homelessness after leaving an abusive or dangerous living situation, the incarceration or disability of a caregiver, or being rejected by family for their gender identity or sexual orientation. Some youth are particularly vulnerable to experiencing homelessness, including those who have been involved in the child welfare or juvenile justice systems.

Youth REACH MD is a partnership of community organizations in each participating region of the state that elevates the voices of youth experiencing housing instability,” said Michelle Zabel, MSS, Associate Dean and Executive Director of The Institute for Innovation and Implementation. “We need youth to know that their voices count because the most effective solutions for the challenges they face are the ones they help to create and implement.”

Youth REACH MD is an ongoing effort, funded by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) with the support of the Maryland General Assembly and coordinated by The Institute for Innovation and Implementation (the Institute) at the University of Maryland School of Social Work. A steering committee, with representation from all participating jurisdictions, guides the administration of the survey across the state. Within participating jurisdictions, community groups work closely with youth ambassadors to develop outreach methods to effectively identify youth.    

Youth REACH MD is gathering data across the state in order to develop solutions that can meet the needs of youth wherever they are in Maryland. These critical insights help our agency and our partners to develop effective strategies to prevent and end homelessness among youth and young adults,” said Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth C. Holt.

Youth REACH MD was one of the country’s first statewide surveys of youth experiencing homelessness. They undertook Maryland’s first-ever survey of youth experiencing homelessness in 2015, identifying almost 1,000 unaccompanied youth and young adults in six participating jurisdictions. With each successive count, more jurisdictions across Maryland have participated and the strategies employed to accurately identify and survey youth have been refined. Consistent, repeated surveying of youth experiencing homelessness provides federal, state, and local constituencies with an ongoing way to track their progress in meeting the needs of youth and young adults experiencing housing instability.

The findings of Youth REACH MD have been consistent with other initiatives and studies:  youth experiencing homelessness often attend school, earn income, and are resilient and resourceful, finding places to sleep by staying with friends, family, or acquaintances on a short-term basis and moving from place to place, known as couch-surfing.

However, many of the youth identified through the Youth REACH MD count do not access traditional homeless services, making it challenging to identify and accurately assess the number, characteristics, and needs of youth experiencing homelessness. Youth REACH MD elevates the voices of youth and young adults who may not otherwise be counted through a traditional service delivery system.

"In my work with young people over the past decade as a legislator, I have learned how important it is to put our youth at the center of the conversation and give them a voice, and that's what Youth REACH MD does. Their leadership on youth issues ensures critical public resources, programs, and policies for ending homelessness are coordinated across the state to best support those who need them most,” said Senator Mary Washington, representing the 43rd District in Baltimore City. She has long been a vocal advocate for youth experiencing homelessness as the Co-Chair for both the Joint Committee on Ending Homelessness and the Joint Committee for Children Youth and Families. She was also the lead sponsor of the bill that both created and funded the Youth REACH MD count.

The Continuum of Care in each of the participating jurisdictions—designed to provide community-wide support to ending homelessness—selects a two-week period between March 1, 2022 and April 30, 2022 in which to conduct the survey and coordinates the local effort.

March 1-14: Anne Arundel County and Howard County

March 7-20: Baltimore County and Harford County

March 14-27: Mid-Shore (Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot Counties)

March 21-April 3: Lower Shore (Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties), Southern Maryland (St. Mary’s, Calvert, and Charles County’s), and Washington County

March 27-April 9: Montgomery County

March 28-April 10: Baltimore City and Prince George's County

April 3-16: Carroll County

April 4-17 : Allegany County and Frederick County

April 17-30: Cecil County and Garrett County

Information on each of the counts, including local contact information and links to Youth REACH MD’s Facebook page, can be found by visiting www.youthreachmd.com.

After completion of the 2022 Youth REACH MD Youth Count, the Institute and DHCD will issue a report with findings and recommendations to address youth homelessness in Maryland.

For more information, visit youthreachmd.com, and follow #YouthReachMD on Instagram.

MEDIA: To link up with and interview community members and/or Youth Ambassadors who are administering the survey, please contact Senior Media Relations Specialist Charles Schelle at 443-717-2591 or email cschelle@umaryland.edu




The Institute for Innovation & Implementation (The Institute), founded in 2005, is a part of the University of Maryland School of Social Work. The Institute is committed to building research-based, innovative, sustainable, and transformative youth-and family-serving systems and services, and to develop the capacity of the workforce within these systems. We do this work in partnership with government agencies, health care providers, and community-based organizations in order to improve outcomes for and with youth and their families. For more information about The Institute, visit www.theinstitute.umaryland.edu.


Founded in 1807, the University of Maryland, Baltimore is Maryland’s only public health, law, and human services university, dedicated to excellence in education, research, clinical care, and public service. UMB enrolls 6,500 students in six nationally ranked professional schools — medicine, law, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, and social work — and an interdisciplinary Graduate School. The university provides more than $40 million each year in uncompensated care to Maryland citizens, and receives more than $500 million in extramural research funding annually. For more information about the University of Maryland, Baltimore, visit www.umaryland.edu.