WATERFRONT – The Lead Me Home Continuum of Care program in Monterey and San Benito counties has received $ 5,283,160 from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to end youth homelessness. The coalition is one of 33 recipients of a total of $ 142 million the ministry has allocated to local communities across the country to establish youth-focused housing programs.
For years, the coalition has focused its attention on this grant, which is part of HUD’s Homeless Youth Demonstration Program. Established in 2016, the federal program works to support regions across the United States as they innovate in helping homeless people under 25.
After twice applying for competitive funding and being turned down, the coalition is in awe of its award. And the fear is not without reason, as the $ 5.28 million grant nearly tripled the coalition’s usual $ 1.7 million allocated by HUD to the Lead Me Home program.
“When I say I’m excited, it doesn’t even affect how I feel,” said Roxanne Wilson, executive director of the Coalition of Homeless Services Providers, which oversees the continuum of care at the local level. “I cried. I thought we would get maybe $ 1 million. We’re just little old Monterey (and San Benito) counties.… I feel like we can do it. a change, and HUD saw it in our app.
Now supported by the Youth Homeless Demonstration Program, the coalition has the means to implement an ambitious plan that it has always known possible with the right support: to bring back the number of homeless youth in Monterey and San Benito counties. to zero functional. Reaching and maintaining functional zero is a milestone that indicates that a community has ended homelessness for a specific population, a goal that Continuum of Care believes is within reach of young adults.
In 2019, 338 children and people under the age of 25 were homeless in Monterey and San Benito counties, according to a homeless census report from the Coalition of Homeless Service Providers. The number has since fallen below 300 over the past two years, leaving a population small enough that the coalition could reasonably come out of homelessness.
To do this, the Lead Me Home program will first focus on developing an organized coordinated entry for young people in particular.
Coordinated entry is a process that guarantees all people facing a housing crisis fair and equal access to services. This requires that all people seeking housing under a federally or state-funded program undergo an assessment identifying their level of vulnerability. Those who are most vulnerable are then housed first, solving the most urgent housing crises before other more manageable situations.
Most of the time, coordinated entry is a fair approach to dealing with homelessness, except for young people, Wilson explained. Younger members of the homeless population tend to go under the radar of broader initiatives to address homelessness, especially young people of transition age, aged 16 to 24.
“An 18-year-old who has just been kicked out of the house is not considered chronically homeless, so he’s lost in the system,” Wilson said.
Continuum of Care believes the solution for Monterey and San Benito counties is to establish a coordinated entry process where young adult housing crises are not overshadowed by circumstances that are not their fault. Transitional housing and rapid relocation programs designed with the same youth-centric focus are also needed, Wilson said.
“Coordinated entry is important, but we’re also looking for projects that provide us with beds,” Wilson said. “We want transitional housing, permanent supportive housing and emergency shelters specifically designed for young people.
This is in line with the coalition’s ultimate intention to establish a micro continuum of care that specifically serves those under 25.
“Right now, young people have to cross a larger continuum and drown among all adults who are chronically homeless,” Wilson said. “Due to trust issues, they don’t want to share the trauma they’ve been through with service providers, so they’re often not a priority for housing. “
The approach and intervention will be particularly important in the fight against homelessness among young people, especially once functional zero has been reached.
“We’ve been late, but once we’re down to functional zero and someone becomes homeless, we can immediately have an intervention for them so that they are immediately placed in housing,” Wilson said.
While it takes at least a few years for the coalition to reach functional zero, it is the closest they have ever come to ending youth homelessness in the region. While largely tied to federal funding for the HUD, the coalition’s progress is also a function of the 18 months of work it took to qualify for the competitive grant.
In preparation for this year’s Homeless Youth Demonstration Program, Wilson and his team have taken a series of steps to show their commitment to tackling youth homelessness with or without federal funding.
It started with the completion of the Federal 100 Day Challenge to End Youth Homelessness last year, in which Wilson and his team managed to house 40 homeless youth. The result was made possible through collaboration between Continuum of Care and 33 local stakeholders, each committed to ending youth homelessness, whether that is their goal as a whole or not.
Representatives of these stakeholders have continued to meet twice a month since the completion of the challenge, with no appeal other than their own ambition, to discuss youth homelessness. These meetings also played a critical role in structuring Community of Care’s initial request for the Homeless Youth Demonstration Program.
The coalition’s request was also informed by a youth action committee made up of five young adults who have experienced or are currently experiencing homelessness firsthand. The board called for youth-friendly and LGBTQ + friendly solutions. Specifically, he suggested providing better transportation and establishing one-stop-shop programs that offer full services.
With these programs in place, Wilson highlighted the most encouraging aspect of the HUD grant: the opportunity for sustainability. After the two-year demonstration with the HUD, new projects will be integrated into the Continuum of Care and therefore available for renewed funding. Year after year, youth homelessness prevention projects will persist and make functional zero not just a finish line, but a steady state of being.
“You need durability,” Wilson said. “It takes so long for an agency to build a reputation and build relationships so that young people feel comfortable enough to obtain services. You can’t stand programs that are going to go away, it’s not good for relationships. You need something that’s going to be renewable, and that’s what we can do here.