Momentum Builds to End Youth Homelessness in Maryland
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.”