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Philadelphia was selected as one of 17 communities to receive a Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program grant. Photo: Emily Leopard-Davis/AL DÍA News.
Philadelphia was selected as one of 17 communities to receive a Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program grant. Photo: Emily Leopard-Davis/AL DÍA News.

Philadelphia selected as one of 17 cities to receive grant to address youth homelessness

The $8.7 million Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) grant will be used to create innovative solutions to end youth homelessness in Philadelphia.

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Philadelphia will be taking the next step in addressing the city’s homelessness, particularly for its young population.

On Monday, October 24, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that Philadelphia has been selected as one of 17 recipients of a grant award of $8,779,924 under the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.

“What we're really trying to do with this grant is to provide the resources for cities and jurisdictions to be creative in the way that they address providing services to youth, and homeless youth, in particular,” said Matthew Heckles, HUD Regional Administrator, during a press conference Monday at City Hall. 

Photo: Emily Leopard-Davis/AL DÍA News.
Photo: Emily Leopard-Davis/AL DÍA News.

Launched in 2021, the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) is an initiative designed to reduce the number of youth experiencing homelessness with the goal of supporting selected communities across the U.S. in the development and implementation of a coordinated community approach to preventing and ending youth homelessness.

Through the program, the city's homelessness services provides will be able to plan and pilot innovative programs specifically designed for young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. 

Heckles added that a key component of this is ensuring that the right programs are put in place to meet their needs, as well as ensuring that individuals who need them most understand what these programs are and how to access them. 

The new funding will go a long way toward helping the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Homeless Services, which supports a range of housing programs, including rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, and transitional housing. 

“We have a strong community and a long commitment to addressing homelessness, and we're bolstered by the legacy of social justice champions and the younger generations... reminding us to continue fighting for racial equity,” said Liz Hersh, director of the Office of Homeless Services for the City of Philadelphia.

Photo: Emily Leopard-Davis/AL DÍA News.
Photo: Emily Leopard-Davis/AL DÍA News.

“Homelessness is very much an issue of racial equity,” she continued. 

While Mayor Jim Kenney noted that homelessness is among the most complex issues the nation is facing, he praised the progress that Philadelphia has already made in addressing it. 

According to City and HUD statistics, since 2018, Philadelphia has seen a 22% decrease in homelessness, and a 12% decrease in the number of people unsheltered, while family homelessness is also down 42%.

“Addressing this issue requires collaboration at all levels, from HUD and City officials to nonprofit leaders and community members, and this new funding represents a critical step forward in continuing to make progress in Philadelphia,” said Mayor Kenney.

Photo: Emily Leopard-Davis/AL DÍA News.
Photo: Emily Leopard-Davis/AL DÍA News.

Joseph Hill-Coles, a youth navigator with Youth Services, Inc., also shared his thoughts on the new funding.

“For a young person right now who is struggling with housing insecurities, this amount of funds means easier access to housing resources, better housing, and more access to jobs,” he said.  

As someone who was homeless himself about five years ago, he understands the struggle of trying to focus when you have nowhere to go.

“I do believe that these funds will make it better for the individuals who are doing the work and also better for the individuals receiving services,” Hill-Coles added. 

In Fiscal Year 2021, approximately 1,700 young adults received some form of assistance from Philadelphia's homeless service system. The City of Philadelphia currently funds 29 separate programs that specifically address youth homelessness, and currently has 387 dedicated youth beds. 

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