CINCINNATI -- The goal is ambitious: Within the next three years, any young person alone and on the streets of Cincinnati will have somewhere to stay.
Two local organizations are using nearly $4 million in federal funds to help reach that goal, using advice from young people who experienced homelessness.
Strategies to End Homelessness and Lighthouse Youth Services won the $3.8 million grant through a new federal Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program. Cincinnati and Hamilton County are just one of 10 communities selected out of 130 that applied to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
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The key, local leaders said, is working with numerous partners, including homeless youth themselves. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said homelessness can leave people vulnerable to not just the elements, but also illness, drugs, crime and human trafficking.
"Thousands of our fellow Cincinnatians, many of them teenagers, are homeless this winter," Portman said. "I want to thank HUD for this funding. It will be put to good use and bring us closer to ending youth homelessness in our community."
Lighthouse has worked for more than three years on a coordinated plan, working with Strategies to End Homelessness, Cincinnati Public Schools, the Lighthouse Youth Advisory Council, Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services, Easter Seals and Mayor John Cranley. They'll continue planning work over the next six months.
Paul Haffner, president and CEO of Lighthouse Youth Services, said his organization is set up to be a national leader on ending homelessness among young people.
"No other local agency focuses specifically on youth or offers the wide range of services and support Lighthouse does," he said.
Cincinnati's $3.8 million grant was among $33 million HUD Secretary Julian Castro announced Friday.