City leaders, youth board focus on effort to help end youth homelessness

Posted at 4:55 PM, Nov 05, 2018

The draft on how to spend a $3.5 million grant aimed to help end youth homelessness in Nashville may be finalized at an upcoming meeting this week.

In July, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) awarded the city with the grant. 

The Nashville-Davidson County Continuum of Care Homelessness Planning Council will meet at the Lentz Public Health Center at 2500 Charlotte Avenue to further discuss how to spend the grant. 

"There is a great need for services that are specific for youth and young adults and that's not something we have a lot of in this community right now," Metro Homeless Impact Divison Abigal Dowell said. 

Dowell said the Youth & Young Adult Committee and Youth Action Board have already several meetings on what the best options are to serve people of the homeless community who are under 25 years old. Among the members is 25-year-old Ashley Oswald who experienced homelessness when she was 20.

Her mother became sick, and the family eventually lost their apartment. 

"She ended up not in the best situation, so she decided to move with my grandmother in Mississippi. So I was left here by myself and I didn't have any other family," Oswald said. 

She was homeless for almost two years and sought assistance through the Nashville Rescue Mission. It wasn't until the program she was in, Youth CAN, connected her with the owner of Crossroads Pets in Germantown. 

She was given a job and a place to stay upstairs.

"Things are so different than they used to be. I got to go back to school I graduate from Nashville State in May, so I'll be the first graduate in my immediate family. I'm actually going to see them for Christmas this year for the first time since 2013 so I'm looking forward to that," Oswald added.

As part of a youth board providing input to city leaders on how to best spend the grant, Oswald hopes the focus isn't only on housing. She wants more supportive services to young people going through homelessness.

"You didn't really get to process what you were going through and how you were feeling in that situation because you were surviving. A lot of times it hits you after you're out of that bad situation and you're really overwhelmed," she said.

Dowell said other suggestions to use the grant include providing more rental assistance programs and host homes.

"It would be living in a home of a family or a couple or an adult. It would be a way to provide either financial assistance to that home or support services to individuals taking in the person experiencing
homelessness. Then there's also support services to that individual so that they can get the services and support they need to take on housing and be successful and get permanent housing on their own," Dowell added.

The meeting will take place on Wednesday from 8:30 to 10 a.m. The draft of the plan will be presented to HUD.