Momentum Builds to End Youth Homelessness in Maryland

Posted April 18, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog yesadvocates 2018

After months of com­mu­ni­ty orga­niz­ing and meet­ings with leg­is­la­tors, advo­cates from Youth Empow­ered Soci­ety (YES), a Casey grantee, are cel­e­brat­ing a big win: The Mary­land Gen­er­al Assembly’s pas­sage of the End­ing Youth Home­less­ness Act of 2018.

The bill will cre­ate a state grant pro­gram to fund com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions offer­ing sup­port­ive ser­vices — includ­ing emer­gency shel­ter and time-lim­it­ed hous­ing — for Maryland’s near­ly 2,500 home­less youth.

Cur­rent­ly, only three juris­dic­tions statewide have pro­grams specif­i­cal­ly designed for home­less youth, despite this issue affect­ing every coun­ty in the state. As a result, youth expe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness through­out Mary­land are often forced to seek unsta­ble and unsafe shel­ter, risk­ing vio­lence and exploitation.

Our young peo­ple have been cham­pi­oning this need since YES’s found­ing,” says Blair Franklin, exec­u­tive direc­tor of YES. In part­ner­ship with the Bal­ti­more Home­less Youth Ini­tia­tive, their advo­ca­cy efforts helped to ini­ti­ate Youth REACH, a statewide count of youth expe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness. The bill’s pas­sage — estab­lish­ing more resources and more hous­ing — is a direct response to this data.”

YES and its oth­er part­ners, includ­ing the Home­less Per­sons Rep­re­sen­ta­tion Project, have a bold vision: ensure every young per­son in Mary­land has a safe place to call home and the sta­bil­i­ty need­ed to thrive. YES, which runs a drop-in cen­ter for home­less youth in Bal­ti­more City, is work­ing to real­ize this vision by:

  • pro­vid­ing urgent­ly need­ed direct ser­vices to youth expe­ri­enc­ing homelessness;
  • devel­op­ing the lead­er­ship and employ­ment skills of young peo­ple who have expe­ri­enced home­less­ness; and
  • engag­ing in sys­tem-lev­el pol­i­cy reform.

The End­ing Youth Home­less­ness Act will add more pro­grams and build more equi­table ser­vices for the dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­bers of home­less LGBTQ youth and youth of col­or through­out the state. In addi­tion, the bill aims to pri­or­i­tize youth engage­ment by ensur­ing young peo­ple play a role in the grant-mak­ing process.

Even though the bill passed, this group of youth advo­cates knows the fight is far from over,” adds Ter­ry­lynn Tyrell, devel­op­ment direc­tor for YES. They’ve already start­ed mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions on how to bet­ter engage leg­is­la­tors and the com­mu­ni­ty and they are dis­cussing orga­niz­ing a youth-led cam­paign focused on housing.”

Learn more about Casey’s efforts to reduce youth homelessness

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