By GABRIELLE WANNEH, Capital News Service
Baltimore, Prince George’s County and the District of Columbia are among 23 communities receiving a total of $75 million in federal funds to combat youth homelessness.
The $75 million was awarded as part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, which started in 2016.
The third year of the program is a significant expansion over the $33 million awarded to 10 communities in 2017 and the $43 million awarded to 11 communities in 2018.
“The goal of the funding was (initially) to really make a big impact in a few communities on youth homelessness.” Norm Suchar, director of HUD’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs, said at a Thursday press conference.
Much of the program and the grant application process were designed with input from homeless youth.
“People with lived experience with homelessness? They’re the experts, right?” Suchar said. “So we need to listen to them and they need to be involved from A to Z…in every part of the process.”
Gloria Brown Burnett, director of Prince George’s County’s Social Services Department, agreed.
“We’re not going to do this for them without them,” she said.
Of the $75 million awarded, Prince George’s County received $3.5 million, Baltimore $3.7 million and the District $4.3 million.
Deborah Shore, executive director of Sasha Bruce Youthwork in the District, anticipates that the funding will help homeless service providers within the area improve their current programs.
“The money follows the plan that gets developed,” Shore said. “The first part of all of this will be to create a planning process that takes into account everything that’s necessary.”
Prince George’s County government officials joined other state and federal officials at the press conference at the Promise Place shelter in Capitol Heights. The officials accepted their grants from HUD Regional Administrator Joseph DeFelice.
The County’s grant will support its “Prince George’s Promise” initiative, which assists youth ages 10-24 with housing, education and training.
DaeJanae Day, a first-year graduate student, mother, and former resident of Promise Place, said she hoped more programs like the County’s could be created to “help college students, or high school students, or anybody in Prince George’s County become a valuable citizen and responsible adult.”
Maryland Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, both Democrats, and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Baltimore) Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Timonium) and John Sarbanes (D-Towson) issued a joint statement last week praising the grant to Baltimore and other communities.
“Every young person in Baltimore and around the nation deserves a safe place to call home. Connecting homeless youth with the services that they need will make an enormous difference in the course of their lives,” the lawmakers said.