Study finds 1,400 youths home­less in Bal­ti­more

Abell Foun­da­tion re­ports far higher num­bers than had pre­vi­ously been thought

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Colin Camp­bell cm­camp­bell@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/cm­camp­bell6

Home­less­ness among Bal­ti­more youths is much higher than pre­vi­ously thought, ac­cord­ing to an Abell Foun­da­tion re­port to be re­leased to­day.

More than 1,400 young peo­ple un­der the age of 25 were unac­com­pa­nied by a par­ent or guardian, with­out a safe, sta­ble, af­ford­able place to live, ac­cord­ing to data col­lected by home­less ad­vo­cates, ser­vice providers, the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land, the city and other stake­hold­ers.

The Youth REACH MD sur­vey re­leased to­day in­cluded not only youths liv­ing on the streets and in home­less shel­ters, but also those in un­sta­ble liv­ing sit­u­a­tions — who might be stay­ing for brief pe­ri­ods of time with friends or rel­a­tives.

More than half of the city’s home­less youth sur­veyed opted to stay briefly with friends or rel­a­tives in­stead of liv­ing on the street or turn­ing to home­less ser­vice providers, the re­port found. Many said they are re­luc­tant to de­scribe them­selves as home­less be­cause they fear the stigma and don’t want to be in­volved in the child wel­fare and ju­ve­nile jus­tice sys­tems, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

Ex­ac­er­bat­ing the prob­lem, most tra­di­tional home­less ser­vices are geared to­ward adults, and the few youth-cen­tric home­less cen­ters are typ­i­cally al­ready at ca­pac­ity, the re­port said.

“As a re­sult, the al­ready high num­ber of unac­com­pa­nied home­less youth cited by the Youth REACH MD find­ings is likely much higher,” the re­port said.

The sur­vey was the most thor­ough ever com­pleted in Bal­ti­more City, said Danielle Meis­ter of the Mayor’s Of­fice of Hu­man Ser­vices, who co­or­di­nates the city’s Con­tin­uum of Care, the group that per­formed the sur­vey.

The city ex­pected its count to out­strip the U.S. Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment’s an­nual home­less num­bers be­cause it was done over three weeks with an ex­panded scope.

Me­gan Lucy, who au­thored the Abell Foun­da­tion’s re­port, said the non­profit hired cur­rent and for­mer home­less youths to help find oth­ers and as­sist with in­ter­view­ing them.

The re­port fol­lowed HUD’s an­nounce­ment two weeks ago that it had recorded an 8 per­cent drop in home­less­ness in Mary­land. It found only 279 home­less youths across the state on one night last Jan­uary.

The Abell Foun­da­tion re­port pointed out prob­lems with HUD’s “point-in-time” sur­veys, per­formed on one night each Jan­uary, and which ad­vo­cates say un­der­counts the home­less youth pop­u­la­tion.

HUD said it is work­ing to im­prove its meth­ods of ac­count­ing for home­less youths. The agency is part­ner­ing with the U.S. In­ter­a­gency Coun­cil on Home­less­ness and the U.S. De­part­ments of Ed­u­ca­tion and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices for a more ac­cu­rate pic­ture, spokes­woman Nika Ed­wards said.

Those agen­cies, Ed­wards said, “plan to use 2017 as the base­line year for track­ing ef­forts to end home­less­ness among youth on the streets” and in shel­ters.

Cindy R. Wil­liams, founder of Lov­ing Arms, the city’s only emer­gency shel­ter for home­less youths, said youth home­less­ness is dif­fi­cult to count, es­pe­cially be­cause of the lack of ser­vices avail­able.

“It’s im­pos­si­ble to say it’s de­creas­ing when there’s no ser­vices tied to that group of young peo­ple,” she said.

Lov­ing Arms in North­west Bal­ti­more is one of only six youth-fo­cused ser­vice providers in the city.

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