In order to help youth experiencing homelessness, Alameda County recently received a $6.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program.
Paul Berry, a coordinator on the county’s Youth Action Board, which is comprised of youth who are currently or formerly homeless, said that young people will be involved in the decision-making process for how the county will spend the grant.
“All projects have to come to the Youth Action Board first and foremost before they’re sent anywhere else,” Berry said. “We have to vote on (the projects) for them to even take action anywhere.”
Coco Auerswald, a campus professor of community health sciences, said young people make up about one-fifth to one-fourth of people experiencing homelessness, but receive less than 5% of funding overall.
Auerswald added that more than 50% of adults who are homeless first became homeless as youth.
According to Auerswald, Berkeley is lacking in resources and a shelter for homeless youth.
“This grant is important because there’s a lot of homeless youth out there in the community who don’t have resources or don’t even know how to access resources,” said Antonio Pizano, a peer mentor for the Youth Action Board. “Hopefully, with this grant, we can support and educate those youth with a peer-led model.”
According to Alameda County spokesperson Jerri Applegate Randrup, the grant will be allocated toward several projects as identified by the community during the grant application process.
These include youth-specific access points, housing supports such as subsidies and services, peer programs with career opportunities, vocational programs with education connections and 24/7 resources.
Auerswald also noted the need to pay attention to the number of students on campus experiencing homelessness, as it affects a “large percentage” of them.
“It’s really important to emphasize that we will not be able to vanquish homelessness in any age group until we address the stigma and community pushback that exists,” Auerswald said. “That stigma and community pushback is alive and well on the Berkeley campus, both from an administrative standpoint but also among students. It’s really important that we pay attention to that challenge in our own community and not just point outside.”