The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $142 million to build systems to end youth homelessness in 33 local communities. On behalf of the local homeless response, The Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition applied for and received $2.2 million. Chattanooga and surrounding communities in Southeast Tennessee ranked in the top six out of 33 that received the grant. These funds will be used in a manner specific to the needs of youth experiencing homelessness, including funding for housing units, wrap-around services, and housing support.
The CRHC is the lead coordinating agency of the Chattanooga/Southeast Tennessee homeless response system known as a Continuum of Care. The Young Adult Advocacy Board operates as a six-member advisory board to the CoC. Members focus on preventing homelessness in young adults aged 18-24.
YAAB member Brittney Stowers says each member has a unique understanding of how these funds should be distributed because of their personal experience with homelessness. “As a child, I was homeless. I was born into it and raised in it,” said Ms. Stowers. She’s no longer homeless and is giving back to those in the same situation, saying “If I’m in a better position, I know I can help somebody who isn’t."
YAAB member Jasmine Snell echoed Stowers sentiment saying, “I cannot rewrite my story, but I can help other young adults avoid or get out of homelessness.”
Executive Director of CRHC Wendy Winters says that it’s hard to know the number of young adults experiencing homelessness in our region because their experience can differ from most adults. However, she suspects that the numbers are much higher than what is currently known.
YAAB member Aslynn Price says youth homelessness is often a hidden problem. “Maybe young people do not know or consider their situation as homelessness, so they are not receiving services they need. Helping young adults in the early stages of their homelessness experience can prevent long-term homelessness.”
The local homeless response has spent the last year laying the groundwork to support youth-focused projects. “We are so proud of our community and HUD’s recognition of our efforts," said Ms. Winters. "During the coming months, we will be working with the YAAB, organizations serving youth, and other community partners to create a comprehensive plan to end youth homelessness in Southeast Tennessee.”
The Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition will hold a local funding competition to allocate the $2.2 million. The Young Adult Advocacy Board will help ensure that applicants understand the needs and priorities of the young people they will serve. Call 710-1501 or visit homelesscoalition.org to learn how to help the Chattanooga Regional Homeless Coalition’s efforts to eliminate youth homelessness.