LINCOLN–(News Release Sept. 23)–Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird on Thursday announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded $2.2 million to Lincoln’s Youth Homeless Demonstration Program. The program will support a wide range of housing and supportive services specifically designed to assist young people of the community.
“During the pandemic, our community has worked together to address the growing needs of our residents and provide them with assistance,” Mayor Gaylor Baird said. “This $2.2 million HUD grant gives us another tool that will help Lincoln reach its goal to end homelessness for everyone in our community, including our youth.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated nearly every crisis in our society, including the crisis of youth homelessness,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “Our society is judged by how we treat the most vulnerable among us.”
Early (Earl) Redrick, Field Office Director for HUD in Omaha, said, “Very few places in the U.S. possess the right balance of intellectual capital, collaborative social services networks, caring spirit, and political will to lead and make substantive progress on complex societal issues. Lincoln, Nebraska is one such place. It’s viewed as a leader in the space of homeless services, and I have consistently raved about the leadership, creativity, and collaborative spirit of our housing and homeless services partners in Lincoln.”
According to the UNL Center on Children, Families and the Law, over 2,600 of our residents ages 16 to 24 sought services to address a housing crisis or were experiencing homelessness over the last two years. Last year in Lincoln, 476 youth under age 24 were reported to have experienced a homeless episode at an emergency shelter or in an unsheltered location.
Mayor Gaylor Baird said Lincoln is well positioned to use put these funds toward their best use because of the City’s Homeless Coalition and its Continuum of Care. Over the next several months, the Continuum of Care will work with community stakeholders to create a comprehensive plan to use the grant funds. Those stakeholders include the Youth Action Board, a group of young adults who have experienced homelessness or housing instability.
Other stakeholders include local human service agencies and partners including Lincoln Public Schools, the State Department of Health and Human Services, Lancaster County Juvenile Probation, and the City’s Urban Development Department. The UNL Center on Children, Families and the Law will facilitate the Continuum of Care planning process.
Lincoln’s program is one of just 22 urban Continuum of Care programs in the nation to receive the highly competitive grant. Gaylor Baird said that going forward, Lincoln will serve as a national leader in the effort to end homelessness among young adults. The grant funding is specifically for a two-year demonstration project. After that, part of the annual HUD funding received by the city will be used to continue to meet the needs of youth ages 24 and under experiencing homelessness.
Mayor Gaylor Baird said Lincoln has already effectively addressed a number of systematic challenges to improve the lives and outcomes of those members in our community who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness:
- The Point in Time count conducted by the Lincoln Continuum of Care shows that since 2015, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in Lincoln has dropped by 55%.
- The Point in Time count also shows that Lincoln has reduced homelessness among military veterans by 73%. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has recognized Lincoln as one of a select number of communities that have effectively ended veteran homelessness by making it rare, of short duration, and non-recurring.
- The Lincoln Commission on Human Rights partnered with the City’s legal community to create the Tenant Assistance Project to provide free legal advice and representation to those in our community who are facing eviction. Over the past year, volunteer attorneys have provided legal assistance to 560 households, with a 98% success rate at preventing immediate eviction.
- The City has used other federal funds to hire a Housing Rights Coordinator.
- Long-term, the City’s affordable housing initiative has set an ambitious goal to provide 5,000 new or rehabilitated affordable housing units by the year 2030.
- The City has provided over $12 million in rent and utility assistance to those affected by the pandemic to prevent eviction and homelessness.
“Thank you to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for awarding us this grant,” Gaylor Baird said. “It provides our community with another opportunity to achieve our goal – to make sure every resident has a safe and secure place to call home.”