Mayor rolls out plan to tackle youth homelessness backed by $15M federal grant

Mayor Eric Adams unveils plan to prevent and end youth homelessness in New York City in Queens. Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
Photo By Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

In his ongoing efforts to get a handle on the city’s homelessness crisis, Mayor Eric Adams Wednesday unveiled his plan to specifically combat youth homelessness backed by a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The plan, titled “Opportunity Starts with a Home: New York City’s Plan to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness,” contains 60 actions the city will take to curb and prevent future youth homelessness in the Big Apple. Some of the plan’s top line initiatives include 102 rapid rehousing units for youth and young adults, creating a Host Home and Shelter Diversion Program mainly for LGBTQ plus youth and a new street outreach program specifically for homeless youth.

During a press conference where Adams unveiled the plan at the Sheltering Arms/Safe Space – a city drop-in center for homeless youth in Jamaica Queens – Wednesday afternoon, he said combating youth homelessness is personal for him because he often lived on the verge of becoming homeless growing up.

“A home is more than four walls, you sit inside. It’s a precursor that allows you to sleep, so you can experience the American dream,” Adams said. “And too many people, particularly young people, are living the nightmarish reality that that dream is never going to be part of their lives. That’s why we’re doing this. That’s why we’re dedicating tools.”

Joining the mayor were Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom and HUD Division Director Nili Soni. Also in attendance were Lyndon Hernandez, Shaquasha King and Elizabeth Sutter, co-chairs of the city Youth Action Board (YAB) – comprised of previously homeless youth.

The plan, Adams said, aims to increase homeless youth’s access to permanent housing, which is essential to not ending up back on the street.

“Shelter is not a home,” Adams said. “That’s not the ending place, that’s the beginning place of analyzing: how do we get you to where you ought to be? And deal with a holistic approach to this from healthcare, to education, to mental health, as I walked through many of my shelters, what I’m seeing. And so it’s placing people in permanent housing.”

Adams said the city developed the plan in partnership with community organizations, advocacy groups and those who have previously experienced homelessness. Williams-Isom said input from members of the YAB was a vital piece of drafting the plan.

“It is so meaningful for us to share space with you and to come together to implement concrete solutions so that people coming up behind you don’t have to experience the homelessness that you all did or have the experience that you did,” Williams-Isom said. “And you did that with compassion and in a very human centered way.”

Some of those organizations include Covenant House, Sheltering Arms, the Legal Aid Society, Coalition for Homeless Youth and Homeless Services United.

The city received the $15 million grant from HUD in September 2021 – under former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration – through the agency’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). In addition to the federal funding, the city also contributed $3.1 million to the plan.

In a statement, the Legal Aid Society celebrated the release of the plan, which it had a hand in writing, saying it will transform how the city serves homeless youth.

“This plan is the product of many months of collaboration, led by young people with lived experiences, that will truly shift how New York City serves runaway and homeless youth and young adults,” they said. “Our clients will now have better access to housing and employment opportunities, and other critical services. We encourage the city to maintain its commitment to fully implementing the plan and build on this success to ensure that the unique needs of this community are being met.”