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'100 day youth housing challenge' hopes to end youth homelessness

Posted at 10:39 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-04 23:39:58-04

Organizations in Central Texas are joining forces in the fight to end youth homelessness.

Together, places like the Dobey Drop-In Center, Family Abuse Center, and The Cove have launched their '100 Day Youth Housing Challenge.'

"I'm most excited about us exceeding our goal, and being able to house every youth that needs housing in our community so we can effectively say we've ended youth homelessness," says Nicole Wiscombe, the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program project director for the Heart of Texas region MHMR Klaras Center for Families.

The challenge started July 20 and the goal was to find 35 young adults, ages 16 to 24, a home before October 26.

"We've actually had one youth already get into housing and it's exciting to see her just kind of breath deeply and know that this is a place that she can be for the next 2 years. And we've known her for over two years and she's probably been a few dozen housing situations over that time. So the stability that comes, the ability for youth to breathe deep and really think about thriving is really exciting," says Kelly Atkinson, the executive director with the Cove.

With Waco growing in popularity, finding an affordable place to live is even more difficult for homeless youth, which is why the team with the 100-day challenge is calling on local landlords to help provide affordable houses or apartments for the youth to have a fresh start.

"That can look a lot of different ways for a lot of different youth, it could be a single individual apartment it could be family units, if we are serving families cause we do serve pregnant and parenting youth. It could be shared housing," says Wiscombe.

According to Dobey officials, within the Heart of Texas region in the 2017-2018 school year there was 696 youth on their own with no adult help. And they hope through the 100-day challenge to reach more youth in need.

"If you're a young person and you've been bouncing around you probably don't think of yourself as homeless, but there are resources within the community and there are people who care about helping you get more stable, and now is the time to reach out," says Atkinson.

The Heart of Texas region is one of 23 communities selected in the youth homelessness demonstration program through housing and urban development to find new ways to help youth struggling with homelessness.

"It's very crucial, you know it's very hard to work on your mental health, any substance use issues any employment if you don't have any safe place to be at night," says Wiscombe.

Aside from affordable housing, the team is also in need of donations for everyday household items including mattresses, pillows, kitchen tables, chairs, microwaves, bath towels, and more.

Those can be dropped off at the Dobey Drop-In Center in Waco at 2111 Austin Avenue Monday through Friday from 8 am to 4 pm.

"Getting into housing first allows a youth to start to relax and start to make sure that they know well 'I have a safe place that I can go for the next two years, now I can start to think about my career, now I can think about mending my relationships or where I'm going to work that pays a livable wage'," says Atkinson.