More than $140 million in competitive federal grants will help combat youth homelessness in 33 communities across the United States.
On a single night in January 2020, enumerators fanned out across the country and counted roughly 30,000 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 who were experiencing homelessness all on their own, without the benefit of a caring adult to help them, according to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
And that was before catastrophe struck in March 2020, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge said in announcing the grants last month.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated nearly every crisis in our society, including the crisis of youth homelessness,” Fudge said. “Our society is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable among us. We have a responsibility in our nation to care for all our children and with this funding, HUD is taking steps to make sure that every child under our care has a safe place to call home.”
Among the communities that were awarded grants, often on a regional or county basis, are New York City and Los Angeles ($15 million each); Madison, Wisconsin ($2.4 million); Minneapolis ($3.5 million); Detroit ($5.2 million); San Jose, California, ($10.2 million); Oakland, California ($6.6 million); Houston ($10 million); and Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas ($4.1 million).
Rural areas were not left out because youth homelessness has been documented everywhere. Agencies and providers across North Dakota will share nearly $2 million, while the Spokane, Washington, area gets about $2.6 million.
Given the scale of the problem, the grants to continuum of care providers will not end youth homelessness, but it’s a start. The awarded programs will be evaluated to inform a federal effort to prevent and end youth homelessness in the future.
Perhaps it will help that local applicants were required to bring in young people who had actually experienced homelessness to advise on the kinds of supports and programs they would find useful and effective where they live.
The $142 million in grants, provided through HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program and in concert with other federal agencies, will support rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, transitional housing and host homes. The grantees will also use the money to provide wraparound services (such as mental health, education and job training) and subsidize rent.
In Madison, Wisconsin, City Alder Brian Benford was deeply involved in preparing the application, according to the Capital Times newspaper.
“We all know that for each of us to reach our full potential, it all starts with where we lay our head at night. It sounds simple but that’s the visceral reality,” Benford said. “For us to grow, for us to address other traumas in our life, we need a safe, secure place to lay our head at night.”