AUGUSTA – There are different challenges with homeless youth who live out in the country and those in the cities of Maine, which is one reason why MaineHousing was recently awarded a federal grant.
The goal of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, grant is to prevent young Mainers from becoming homeless and to help those who are already living on the streets.
“The numbers of youth that are experiencing homelessness is alarming and it’s not acceptable,” MaineHousing Director Daniel Brennan said Friday. “There is simply too many young people who don’t have a home to go to every day and that’s very concerning to us.”
HUD awarded MaineHousing a two-year $3.35 million grant to address youth homelessness in rural areas of the state.
MaineHousing is working with New Beginnings, a Lewiston-based youth resource agency that operates the state’s only youth emergency center. The two agencies will create what they are calling a Coordinated Community Response to identified gaps in the current system.
“Based on some national studies … It’s equal to urban homelessness,” Chris Bicknell, New Beginnings executive director, said Friday about rural homelessness. “About 9 percent of young people between the ages of 14 and 24 will experience homelessness at some point during the year.
“So if you’re in a school auditorium and there are a hundred young people in that auditorium, nine of them will be homeless at some point,” he stressed.
The leadership team for the endeavor will include youth members who have experienced homelessness.
“When you have someone at the table who has actually experienced it before and gone through that experience, it’s a powerful voice,” Brennan said.
“They have a real perspective on what works and what doesn’t work that I can never have,” Bickness added. “That voice can change the face of how we do things.”
Once the Coordinated Community Response is created, groups across Maine will be able to apply for sub-grants.
“There is no one agency and no one organization that can accomplish this on their own,” Brennan said. “It has to be a collaborative effort and that’s what we’re doing.”