Youth Count!

Emily Aerts, Chelsia Davis and Joshua Downes

Youth Count! 2013
was sponsored by the City of Billings as a component of Welcome Home Billings, the City's ten-year plan to impact homelessness. This joint effort between Tumbleweed and the Billings Metro VISTA Project originated through the City's Community Development Division with the following intentions:
  • Prepare and facilitate a count to enumerate and assess youth experiencing homelessness in the Billings area.
  • Enable policymakers and service providers to better plan, fund and shape services that accurately reflect the needs of homeless youth in the community to ultimately reduce their number for years into the future.
The City sponsored two AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) members to work on the project full-time from January 2013 to January 2014. Joshua Downes and Chelsia Davis conducted research, developed the survey and resource materials. The City co-sponsored a VISTA Summer Associate member to assist in carrying out the project. Emily Aerts joined the VISTA team from June to August 2013.

Project Manual & Appendices

This project manual, including the following appendices, has been developed as a model to assist other communities in conducting their own Youth Count! survey
  • Appendix G: Urban / Baseline Cohort Data This cohort of 45 surveys represents a more typical overview of youth and young adult homelessness in Billings. Data analysis of this cohort begins on page 38 of the project manual.
  • Appendix H: Outlier Cohort Data Surveys in this cohort were segregated during data analysis as they were reportedly garnered from a group of individuals living collectively outside the City of Billings limits. Very few survey questions were completed, resulting in an atypical and limited view of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness in the area. Data analysis begins on page 43 of the project manual.


There was no accurate picture of the number, characteristics and needs of homeless youth in Billings, Montana. Each January, communities across the country conduct a census, Point-In-Time (PIT) count of their homeless populations. Data on unaccompanied homeless youth is currently unavailable, as a national standard for counting this cohort has not yet been established. Available PIT data vastly under-represents the number of youth experiencing homelessness and services required to impact poverty conditions.

Media & News

Billings Gazette:

Survey planned to count, understand Billings' homeless youth population
Survey to count Billings' homeless youth wraps up
I need a family, just not mine: Survey offers unique look at homeless youth in Billings

KULR8 News:
Local Group Awarded Grant
Homeless Youth Survey Completion