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Photo courtesy of U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins' office.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins' office.

Higgins announces new resources in effort to reduce youth homelessness in Erie County


Tue, Oct 20th 2020 05:05 pm

BestSelf & Compass House receive $2.37 million-plus in federal funding to support rapid rehousing, family counseling & “safe space” overnight drop in center

Congressman Brian Higgins joined representatives from the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, BestSelf Behavioral Health and Compass House to announce more than $2.37 million in federal funding and a coordinated strategy to reduce the number of youth experiencing homelessness in Erie County.

Elizabeth Ganga, LCSW-R, president and CEO of BestSelf Behavioral Health Inc., said, "BestSelf is proud to partner to provide these vital services that did not previously exist in our community to vulnerable homeless youth who need them."

Compass House Executive Director Lisa Freeman added, “Compass House is excited to be part of the drop-in center by expanding our hours to keep youth off the streets. We also are working on getting the transitional living program licensed by NYSOCFS so we can get that up and running by the end of the year. This is an exciting time in Erie County as I feel our runaway and homeless youth are finally getting all the services they need.”

“Erie and Niagara counties are only one of 22 urban communities to receive the highly competitive (YHDP) grant from HUD in the amount of $3.6 million over two years,” said Dale Zuchlewski, executive director of the Homeless Alliance of WNY. “These funds will serve the ‘hidden’ homeless, those young and young adults that may not seek services through traditional resources.”

According to the Homeless Alliance of Western New York’s (HAWNY) 2019 homelessness summary, young people between the ages of 13-24 represent 17% of Erie County’s homeless population.

Through a coordinated community plan led by the HAWNY and developed over the past several months, Compass House and BestSelf will receive a total of $2,371,920 in funding made possible through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program to expand services for youth who are homeless or at risk of being homeless.

Details on Erie County’s projects include:

Compass House | Joint Transitional-Rapid Rehousing ($1,175,818)

This project will provide housing support through a transitional housing site for males, a partnership to provide transitional housing for females with TRY, and a rapid rehousing program to help youth obtain their own apartment in the community.

BestSelf | Safe Space Overnight Drop-in Center ($593,570)

The Drop-in Center will provide a safe place overnight for youth to obtain food, clothing and other necessities as well as get linked to support and housing services. The project will serve youth ages 16-24 in Erie County and will also include expanded hours for Compass House’s Resource Center.

Best Self | Family Engagement Team ($602,532)

This project will focus on providing family mediation and other support services to help youth quickly resolve their homelessness or divert them from experiencing homelessness. The project will serve youth ages 12-24 in Erie County.

The Erie/Niagara Region is one of just 44 communities across the nation awarded funding through HUD’s Youth Homeless Demonstration Program. Recipients are required to bring together a variety of stakeholders to assess the needs of at-risk youth, including populations at higher risk of experiencing homelessness – including minorities, LGBTQ, young parents, victims of human trafficking, or youth involved in the foster care or the juvenile justice system.

“This administration continues to ensure that young people have a roof over their heads, particularly during this pandemic” said Lynne Patton, HUD regional administrator for New York and New Jersey. “Today, Secretary (Ben) Carson is thrilled to provide $3.59 million to Erie and Niagara counties in Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) funds, so that local stakeholders can mobilize all necessary tools and resources on behalf of homeless youth.”

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