Summit County group draws on HUD grant to help homeless youth
Summit County's Continuum of Care is going to tap into a nearly $1.5 million federal grant that's part of a national effort to combat youth homelessness.
The funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development will be used to open a shelter in the county wholly focused on young people, said Executive Director Mar-quetta Boddie. People 24 and under are less likely to seek help, she said.
“They don’t traditionally go to shelters, like the Haven of Rest or ACCESS just because they aren’t always comfortable going there, not because those shelters aren’t wonderful, just when you’re younger sometimes that can be intimidating for you,” she said. “We need to have a more youth-specific shelter.”
The grant will benefit both youth who are without homes and those who are couch surfing, Boddie said.
Continuum of Care will also use the grant to provide wrap-around services including mental health support, substance abuse programs, help finding jobs and other peer support.
“The youth are interested in a whole lot more than just shelter,” Boddie said. “They’re actually the ones that will be doing the community plan.”
A Youth Advisory Council comprised of people 24 and under, some who were previously unhoused, will work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to plan allocation of the grant funds.
The goal of the project is to end homelessness in the county, Boddie said.
“We want to make an impact on youth that are experiencing a housing crisis in Summit County, and that’s a lot of young people,” she said.
Up to 40% of homeless youth in the county identify as LGBTQ+, Boddie said. To help them feel comfortable, she said she connects them with people who have similar lived experiences.
“Equity and access for youth in our community is huge for us, and creating safe spaces for them so that when they’re experiencing crisis, they have somewhere to go,” she said.
Boddie hopes the impact of the investment will make a difference.
“These young people are truly going to be creating a legacy,” she said.