Bright Spot: Gulfport/Gulf Coast, MS | Youth Action Board

September 25, 2019

Allow youth to structure and lead their own meetings to provide their feedback, generate policy ideas, and make decisions.

Check out this bright spot if…

  • Your community contains youth experiencing homelessness or youth imminently at-risk of homelessness
  • Your community contains youth experiencing homelessness or youth imminently at-risk of homelessness
  • You want to try it!


The Gulf Coast CoC created its Youth and Young Adult Action Board during its 100-Day Challenge to end youth homelessness, which launched in November 2017. Since its inception, the Youth and Young Adult Action Board has continued meeting to prepare a community plan and project designs for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP). Although the Gulf Coast CoC was not ultimately selected for YHDP funding, the Youth and Young Adult Action Board continues to meet to refine the community plan and to move forward with implementing youth-designed projects.

The Board is comprised of approximately 6 youth with lived experience of homelessness, three of whom serve as representatives to the CoC Board. Although the first meeting included adult participants to help establish the purpose and expectations of the Board, the youth have convened and facilitated every meeting thereafter.  During the 100-Day Challenge, the Board met weekly, but have since scaled back to a monthly meeting. 

Key action: Recruit youth for an action board

The CoC had its greatest success in recruitment through its partnership with a local community development agency, CLIMB CDC, which had established positive relationships with youth and young adults with juvenile justice involvement, or who had discontinued high school. Because the agency was already well known for helping youth and young adults access employment, education, and development opportunities, CLIMB CDC offered participation in the Youth and Young Adult Action Board in the same way they offered other opportunities. The CoC developed materials for CLIMB CDC to circulate for recruitment. 

The CoC also leveraged its very active Ending Youth Homelessness committee for recruitment. The committee created recruitment materials, and recruited the core group of young adult members. 

In addition to the efforts led by the formal CoC structure, the youth and young adults involved in the Board recruited additional members from their own networks.

Key Action: Create a youth action board structure

The Board structure allows for both formal and informal membership. The membership structure comprises approximately 6 people, 3 of whom are considered formal “core group” members. Informal membership includes those youth and young adults that wish to participate, but might not attend regularly. 

The 3 core group members have diverse experiences of homelessness, and are responsible for communicating the ideas and information generated during meetings to the Continuum of Care. The Youth Action Board reports to the CoC membership quarterly and fully participate in the monthly CoC meetings with full voting membership. The three core group members also participate in By-Name List case conferencing. 

The youth chose a room at CLIMB CDC as their meeting space, as it was an organization known to them and in which they felt comfortable and safe. The youth flex the time and frequency of meetings to best suit attendees, within the logistic constraints of the space availability. Youth are responsible for setting the meeting schedules, agendas, and communicating meeting dates to their fellow members.

Although youth are responsible for setting the agenda, they are responsive to the requests for feedback and program design from the CoC as communicated to the three core group members.

Fail Forward Moments

  • During recruitment, take care to avoid telling the young people what to do. Instead help them answer the questions “What will we get to do?” and “Will our input be real?
  • The Gulf Coast CoC found they got fuller participation when youth were left to structure the group on their own. At first, a few adult case managers that worked with youth set a formal agenda and structure for the Board. After the first few meetings, though, it was evident that the structure was disengaging the young people. Though concerned that the group was dissolving, the adults involved decided to change course and handed control of the group over to the young people. When adults entrusted control of the group to the young people, they gained more trust and engagement and saw the group have more productive meetings.
  • Currently, the Youth and Young Adult Action Board comprises only volunteer-positions. The CoC is seeking funding for the positions.