Santa Cruz County targets youth homelessness

Santa Cruz’s new Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program members tested an idea on a group gathered downtown Friday: Youth homelessness is unacceptable and should be addressed immediately.

“We should be housing every youth we see. We should not be walking and stepping over the youth that are lying down or standing around who are homeless,” Santa Cruz County Human Services senior analyst Najeeb Kamil told a standing room-only crowd of more than 60 in a Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History conference room. “We should be interacting with them, we should be engaging them and thinking about, ‘How can I personally, in Santa Cruz County, contribute to this cause.’ ‘How can I end youth homelessness on an individual basis.’”

Such a perspective may have helped push Santa Cruz County into the final 10 communities nationwide selected from 130 applicants for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project. Looking to find new solutions for youth homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development granted a total of $33 million toward the 10 grantees to design and test strategies to end the problem.

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