Over the past several months, COHHIO and partners have been laying the foundation for the new $2.2 million Youth Homeless Demonstration Project (YHDP) aimed at ending youth homelessness in five counties of Southeast Ohio.
COHHIO staff and key providers from Southeast Ohio, including Sojourners Care Network and Integrated Services for Behavioral Health, have been meeting with educators, child welfare agencies, youth and other local partners to devise a coordinated community plan that outlines steps to tackle youth homelessness in Athens, Vinton, Meigs, Jackson, and Gallia counties. The YHDP Team submitted a draft plan to HUD last month.
Now the YHDP team will start building out the process to begin developing projects outlined in the community coordinated plan based on feedback from local stakeholders. Members of the community have been a critical part of the process, like the event focusing on housing issues in Jackson on June 22. These events give members of the community an opportunity to identify specific needs and to discuss potential solutions.
Additional stakeholder events focusing on outreach and crisis response, and innovation are in the works for this fall.
Youth are a big part of the Southeast Ohio YHDP planning process. Youth Action Board (YAB) members recently attended summits in New York City and Washington D.C. to learn more about the strategies other communities are using to tackle youth homelessness. Southeast Ohio YAB members will be directly involved in approving the coordinated community plan and proposed projects.
Earlier this year, the Ohio Balance of State Continuum of Care, which is the homeless system that includes the five YHDP counties, was awarded a grant to implement innovative approaches to ending youth homelessness in Southeast Ohio. The Southeast Ohio YHDP is one of only four rural areas in the nation to be awarded this federal funding.
The federal funds will be used to support the development of new local projects that apply proven methods to reduce homelessness, like supportive housing and rapid rehousing. The funding can also be used on new and innovative approaches to combat youth homelessness in the community.
High poverty, high unemployment, and the opioid crisis make southeastern Ohio particularly challenging for youth struggling to find a safe place to live. Since 2009, the number of children in Ohio’s child welfare system has increased by about 19 percent, while agency funding has dropped by 17 percent.