San Diego will have nearly $12 million in state and federal grants to spend on youth homelessness programs next year, City Councilman Chris Ward said Monday during a meeting of the Select Committee on Homelessness.
The lion’s share of the $11.9 million will come from a $7.9 million, two-year Housing and Urban Development grant announced this month. Following an eight-month planning process, funds will likely be put to use this time next year.
A 2018 point-in-time count identified 928 youth, defined as 24 years old or under, experiencing homelessness in San Diego County, though that may be an undercount, said Walter Philips, CEO of San Diego Youth Services.
The figure included 659 unsheltered homeless youth, or 71 percent of the total population. In comparison, 50 percent of homeless veterans and 58 percent of the total homeless were unsheltered.
Twenty-seven percent of homeless individuals surveyed during the count said they first became homeless before the age of 25, which highlights the need to offer youth-specific services, Philips said.
“If we don’t address that now, we’re just kicking the can down the road — these youth will become our chronically homeless adults,” he said.
Homeless youth are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation, survival sex, alcohol and drug abuse, and mental and physical health problems, as well as academic issues.
Youth homelessness disproportionately affects LGBTQ individuals, ethnically diverse populations, people without high school diplomas or GEDs and those who are pregnant or parenting.
Grant funding should go, in part, to age-appropriate housing and supportive services, Philips said, “and not just transfer the models that have been working for adults, although some of them can be used to really look creatively at how we’re using strategies that work for our young people.”
Officials are also looking to continue developing coordinated entry points for youths to seek homelessness services, said Deme Hill with the Regional Task Force for the Homeless. Homeless youth undergo an age-specific assessment upon entering the system.
Last year, there was one youth entry point in Oceanside. Now there are four throughout the county, and another two entry points are expected, Hill said, “so they can access services in the communities (where) they live.”
–City News Service
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