In 2015, 418 young adults ages 18-24 were living in adult emergency shelters in Louisville or on the street. Now the Coalition for the Homeless and a committee of nearly 50 local providers, community leaders and government members have announced their intention to end young adult homelessness by 2020.
Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition, likened the plan, called Rx: Housing, to one created to end veteran homelessness, which housed 1,100 veterans in the community. This put the rate of veteran homelessness at “functional zero,” she said.
Harris said that young adult homelessness had been on the rise and had recently plateaued.
Partners include Family Scholar House, Home of the Innocents, YMCA Safe Place Services of Louisville, KentuckianaWorks, YouthBuild and Centerstone, which runs the young adult drop-in center TAYLRD, where the announcement was made.
Harris said that the committee has applied for a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but expressed the groups’ intention to reach their goal regardless of whether they received the grant.
Eric Friedlander, director of Louisville’s department of community services, represented the city at the announcement. He celebrated the diversity of the partners involved in the effort. “We’re a city of compassion, ” he said. “And we’re also a city of collaboration.”
Anita Roper, project manager at TAYLRD, said that the facility was never meant to cater to homeless transition-age youth. “But after we opened, we realized that around 80 percent of our kids were homeless,” she said. The center had only ever planned to give out snacks to the young adults using the facility. “Now we have a hot meal every day,” she said.
MaryLiz Bender, who plays in the band Twin Limb from Louisville, explained that her homelessness began when she dropped out of high school at age 16. She said she slept on couches and in people’s basements and sometimes on the beach. The experience led her to feel “invisible” and lacking a safety net.
“All this coupled with the growing pains of being a teenager,” she said.
Twin Limb’s album release party at Headliners in Oct. 2016 was a benefit for Rx: Housing.
The committee compiled a Youth Advisory Board late last year consisting of young adults who at some point experienced homelessness. They made recommendations on every aspect of the plan.
According to the Coalition for the Homeless’s news release about the plan: “The Coalition for the Homeless estimates that the annual cost to taxpayers for the 418 homeless young adults identified in Louisville is $14,892,156. The likelihood of government assistance for a lifetime for young adults increases exponentially if their needs are not addressed by the age of 24.”
Harris urged all Louisvillians to get involved. “We need everyone in the community to find one young person to help, to mentor or employ,” she said.