Community partners submit final plan for $3.7 million grant to address youth homelessness

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A homeless man moves his tent under a freeway in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. A powerful storm swept south across California on Tuesday, flooding the drought-stricken state with desperate rain necessary. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

To end youth homelessness in the Marion-Polk area, the community must better identify all at-risk and unaccompanied youth, expand prevention strategies and entry processes to connect youth to services, and an urgent need for permanent and transitional housing, among other key needs. That’s what dozens of community partners and homeless youth determined after six months of writing the Coordinated Community Plan submitted to HUD for approval this week.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Marion-Polk area a $3.7 million grant to help the area address a growing crisis of homeless youth and young adults.

This week, the required plan outlining goals to prevent and end youth homelessness was submitted to HUD for approval. If approved, community partners could soon begin funding projects designed to address the stated recommendation.

The Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program grant has only been awarded to 33 communities across the country this round. This was the first time Marion and Polk counties had successfully secured the funding.

Over the past six months, the Youth Action Board, also known as Backbone, has led efforts to determine how the region should spend the funds. The council is made up of 18 young members who have all experienced homelessness.

The band’s name, Backbone, recognizes the circumstances of homelessness which forced the members to develop a very young backbone and also reflects the band’s commitment to using strong backbone now to make a difference, said Marianne Bradshaw , a Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance consultant who also led the planning process.

The grant planning team met every Thursday to determine the community overview and values.

Thousands in need

The goal is to provide additional assistance to the 5,800 youth at risk of homelessness in Marion County. This represents 14.1% of the county’s young population. Oregon’s state rate is 11.5% according to the report.

There are approximately 1,100 at-risk youth in Polk County.

Using the Homelessness Management Information System, a database of community partners, and data from McKinney-Vento and expert estimates, there are at least 1,540 young people aged 13 24 years old who are homeless in the region.

According to the report, young people of color are overrepresented among the homeless. In 2021, race data was available for 781 youth experiencing homelessness. Ethnicity data was available for 774 youth.

According to 2020 Census data, the total population of Marion and Polk counties is 25% Hispanic/Latinx, 22% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.8% Black or African American, 0.4% North Islander Pacific or Native Hawaiian and 10.6% two or more. races. But youth experiencing homelessness were 34.4% Hispanic/Latino (266/774), 3.6% Native American or Alaska Native (28/781), 5.5% Black or African American ( 43/781), 0.8% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (6/781), and 10.1% Other (often multiracial) (79/781).

The plan also outlines an effort to direct additional actions toward youth and young adults who are members of the LGBTQ community. Using data from a 2019 survey of community colleges on 14 Oregon campuses, the report estimates that 20-25% of young adults in the region identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. In the survey, 27% of bisexual students and 23% of gay and lesbian students said they had been homeless in the past year. About 18% of heterosexual respondents said they had been homeless.

Other special populations identified in the report include survivors of sex trafficking and exploitation, youth in the justice system, and youth in the child protection or foster care system.

Youth-led plan

Bradshaw stressed that the plan was youth-led.

Backbone generally meets on the first and third Monday of each month. Bradshaw played a supporting role in these meetings. The planning team began meeting in December and met every Thursday, considering the overall vision and values ​​and creating a strong community plan.

In March, the group held a special meeting of more than two hours to go through the whole plan section by section. The young people then took the plan home for a week to do a final review.

There are young people as young as 11 on the council and as old as 25. It’s a “heavy” report, but the group was dedicated. They weren’t just endorsing it, she said.

“It’s not just an outside consultant saying, you know, here’s a top priority, let’s do this or put some money here,” Bradshaw said. “It’s the young people and young adults who have gone on this walk saying, ‘That’s what will be most helpful. “”

The $3.7 million isn’t “far enough” for all the system’s needs, but it’s a starting point, she acknowledged.

Key objectives

Over 170 individuals representing 72 agencies and organizations participated in the development of the Mid-Willamette Valley Coordinated Community Plan to End Youth Homelessness.

The group determined a common vision: every youth and young adult has a safe and stable place in their community to live, sleep, connect and thrive, where every unique individual feels valued as an authentic being and has sustained opportunities to become self-reliant with confidence. .

The 58-page plan submitted to HUD this week outlines the goals for achieving this vision:

  • Identify all unaccompanied youth.

  • Use prevention and diversion strategies where possible, and otherwise provide immediate access to low-barrier crisis housing and services to any youth who need and want it.

  • Use coordinated entry processes to effectively connect all youth experiencing homelessness to housing solutions and services tailored to their needs.

  • Act urgently and quickly help young people move into permanent or open-ended housing options with appropriate services and support

  • Have resources, plans and system capacity in place to continue to prevent and quickly end future experiences of youth homelessness.

  • Have a comprehensive youth homelessness system that ensures equity in access, experiences when seeking and receiving services, and outcomes for all YYAs in the geographic region of the CoC.

Projects to achieve these goals include the expansion of staff sites where homeless youth are connected to housing and services. Currently, Coordinated Entry sites are based in Salem, but the plan recommends collocating staff at partner sites in Dallas, Santiam Canyon, Silverton and Woodburn. The plan also suggests creating youth-identified ways to access the coordinated entry process, such as developing an app to refer or request an assessment. The community should also adopt a coordinated entry assessment tool for young people under the age of 18.

Additional goals include creating pathways for youth and young adults to permanent, open-ended housing options, such as replicating the reception house model, adding a lottery system to the Salem Public Housing Authority plan for youth 18-24, and also increase long-term housing options designed for youth.

Hope and vision are more than having shelter and more than having the necessities added by Bradshaw.

“Our hope is to go beyond that, where every person can connect and then thrive regardless of who they are or regardless of their geographic location,” she said.

Approved by the Youth Council and the CoC Board, partners are now awaiting HUD approval. Once approved, they can begin the Request for Proposals process where community organizations can submit proposals for funding. A review and ranking committee would be formed to review proposals to ensure that funded projects match the priorities set out in the Coordinated Community Plan.

This committee will be made up of 50% youth and young adults with lived experience of homelessness, Bradshaw said, to continue to elevate youth leadership.

This article originally appeared in the Salem Statesman Journal: Community partners submit final plan for $3.7 million grant

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