A federal grant is providing money to a Mississippi Gulfcoast agency to combat youth homelessness. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
Open Doors Homeless Coalition works with a team of 16 case workers from different organizations to help homeless youth in six Gulf Coast counties. Executive Director Mary Simons says last year they helped house 127 young people, ages 16 to 25. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently awarded the agency $2 million to come up with innovative ideas to fight the problem.
"Where we haven't really been able to outreach yet, and these funds will help us with that, will be to really connect with the young people who are identified through the school system to help find real housing solutions," said Simons.
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, found last year there were more than 1,300 people in the state without stable housing. Simons says for youth, the issues are complex; low wages, a lack of affordable housing and mental illness are some. She says many like Jourdan Hartshorn of Gulfport, age out of the foster care system and have no place to go. The 25-year old spent two years living in his car, staying with relatives and friends. Hartshorn is now the coalition's Youth and Young Adult Action Board president and a student at Mississippi Gulfcoast Community College, devising ways to help young people.
"The first project that we're trying to do is build some kind of supervised dorm or something we can let 16 to 25 year olds come and stay in and give them a sense of security and there will be programs in effect in that housing program," said Hartshorn.
Open Doors Homeless Coalition has four months to submit a plan to HUD. Once approved, organizations must apply for the funds through the coalition to implement the plan.