Skip to main content
Jun Jun 25 27
  • In-Person Event

How Can States Help Prevent Youth Homelessness?

  • Sunday, June 25, 2023
    • In-Person Event
View Event Details:

NCSL's Youth Homelessness Fellows meeting in Nashville.

Each year 4.2 million youth and young adults experience some form of homelessness. State policymakers across the country are seeking guidance on how best to address the problem in their states. NCSL is answering the call with a fellows program through which participants will enhance their subject matter knowledge in a cohort- based, peer-learning environment.

This program is designed to help you achieve the following goals:

  • Strengthen your knowledge of youth and young adult
  • Explore options to prevent homelessness and mitigate the consequences when it does
  • Foster new relationships among fellows, faculty and NCSL
  • Develop an individual legislative action
  • Identify opportunities for NCSL to support your individual action

This meeting will be co-located with NCSL’s Child Welfare Fellows and shared learning will take place through cross-over programming. Please visit your cohort page for all session materials and additional resources.

NCSL’s Youth Homelessness Fellows Program is made possible through a grant from the Raikes Foundation and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Sunday, June 25

5 p.m.

Registration Opens

Pick up your name tag and meeting folder. Location: Saturn and Fort

5 – 6 p.m.

Networking Reception

Gather for informal networking and mingle with other Youth Homelessness Fellows and Child Welfare Fellows, faculty and NCSL staff.

Location: Terrace (weather permitting) and Hippodrome Ballroom B

6 – 7:30 p.m.

Welcome & Dinner

Enjoy dinner with Child Welfare Fellows and Youth Homelessness Fellows.

Location: Hippodrome Ballroom B

Monday, June 26

8 – 9 a.m.

Breakfast and Networking

Start the day with breakfast and networking with other fellows, faculty and NCSL staff.

Location: Hippodrome Ballroom B

9 – 10 a.m.

Joint Opening Plenary

Melissa Merrick will share her organization’s vision and the important role you as lawmakers and NCSL policy fellows can play in child, youth and family well-being. We will consider the continuum of prevention strategies and opportunities for parents and other caregivers to create better outcomes for their children.

Moderators: Tahra Johnson and Wade Fickler, NCSL

Speaker: Melissa Merrick, Ph.D., president and CEO, Prevent Child Abuse America | Presentation

Location: Hippodrome Ballroom B

10 – 10:15 a.m.

Break and Room Change

10:15 – 10:30 a.m.

Program Welcome and Introduction: Youth Homelessness Fellows Cohort Meet more Youth Homelessness Fellows, faculty and NCSL staff. Prepare for the experience of working together to achieve the goals of the program.

Moderators: Heather Hanna, NCSL; Cameron Rifkin, NCSL; Walker Stevens, NCSL; Heather Wilson, NCSL

Location: Saturn and Fort

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Introduction to Youth Homelessness

Learn about various definitions of youth homelessness, demographics and vulnerable populations, risk and prevention factors, and the impact of homelessness on adolescent brain development. We will explore national and state data while examining the causes and outcomes of youth homelessness.

Moderator: Cameron Rifkin, NCSL


  • Sarah Berger Gonzalez, senior policy analyst, Chapin Hall | Presentation
  • Anne Farrell, Ph.D., director of research, Chapin Hall

Location: Saturn and Fort

11:30 – 12:30 p.m.

Policy Landscape and Trends

Explore how the federal landscape affects states state policy trends related to youth experiencing homelessness.


Moderator: Heather Wilson, NCSL


  • Barbara Duffield, executive director, School House Connection | Presentation
  • Rodd Monts, director of state policy, School House Connection

Location: Saturn and Fort

12:30 – 1:45 p.m.

Joint Lunch and Networking

Lunch will be provided by NCSL.

Location: Hippodrome Ballroom B

1:45 – 2 p.m.

Lunch Transition, Group Photo and Reflection on Morning Sessions

After lunch, please return to the Saturn and Fort meeting rooms for a brief reflection and group photo.

Location: Saturn and Fort

2 – 3 p.m.

All In: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

Learn about the federal strategic plan to reduce homelessness 25% by 2025 and state policy opportunities to prevent youth homelessness.

Moderator: Heather Hanna, NCSL

Speaker: Joe N. Savage, Jr., Ph.D., senior regional advisor, United States Interagency Council on Homelessness | Presentation

Location: Saturn and Fort

3 – 3:15 p.m.


3:15 – 5 p.m.

Policy Opportunities and Challenges to Address Vulnerable Populations

Experts will review the intersections of youth homelessness with child welfare, juvenile justice and human trafficking. Participants will engage in two 30-minute discussions with experts and colleagues on policy opportunities and challenges to preventing youth homelessness.

Moderators: Heather Hanna, NCSL; Heather Wilson, NCSL; Walker Stevens, NCSL


  • Sarah Berger Gonzalez, senior policy analyst, Chapin Hall
  • Judge Sheila Calloway, Juvenile Court Metropolitan Nashville & Davidson County
  • Anne Farrell, Ph.D, director of research, Chapin Hall
  • Heather Wilson, senior policy specialist, NCSL | Presentation

Location: Saturn and Fort

5 p.m.

Dinner on Your Own

Venture out on your own or with others to enjoy Nashville’s food scene.

Tuesday, June 27

8 – 9 a.m.

Breakfast and Hotel Check Out

Enjoy breakfast and check out of your hotel room before programming begins. Location: Hippodrome Ballroom B

9 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.

Youth Homelessness Prevention Collaboration in Nashville

Learn about collaborative efforts to prevent and end youth homelessness in Nashville. Local leaders will discuss the strengths and challenges of cross-sector partnerships, the role of policymaking in their work and the value of engaging lived experts in the process.

Moderator: Heather Wilson, NCSL


  • Karri Gornick, vice president of Crisis to Housing, Oasis Center
  • Fiona Herman, intern, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Catherine Knowles, director of special population services, Metro Nashville Public Schools

Location: Saturn and Fort

10:15 – 10:30 a.m.


If you have not already checked out of your hotel room, please do so now.

10:30 – 11:30 a.m.

Barriers and Opportunities: Access to Services for Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Many youth experiencing homelessness face significant barriers to accessing legal, health and financial services. Learn about policy opportunities to eliminate these barriers.

Moderator: Walker Stevens, NCSL


  • Rodd Monts, director of state policy, School House Connection
  • Kelly Russo, director, Commission on Homelessness & Poverty, American Bar Association

Location: Saturn and Fort

11:30 a.m. – 12:15


Reflections and Next Steps

Fellows will identify steps to put their new knowledge to use and share feedback on how NCSL can improve its programming.

Moderators: Heather Hanna, NCSL; Cameron Rifkin, NCSL; Walker Stevens, NCSL; Heather Wilson, NCSL

Location: Saturn and Fort

12:15 – 1:30 p.m.

Closing and Joint Lunch

Enjoy lunch with fellows, faculty and NCSL staff from both cohorts before traveling

Graduate Nashville
101 20th Ave N., Nashville  

  • Contact NCSL

  • For more information on this topic, use this form to reach NCSL staff.