3 Reasons our Youth 100-Day Challenge could end today and we’d be grateful!

3 Reasons our Youth 100-Day Challenge could end today and we’d be grateful!

Since 2015, a core group of youth-serving providers and Changing Homelessness have focused on young adults experiencing homelessness. In 2019, the Florida Blue Foundation awarded our community a grant that has accelerated this effort incredibly. A full-time Coordinator was hired, which coupled with years of commitment to the effort, signaled to HUD that our community was ready for a next step. Three months later, Jacksonville/Northeast Florida secured a place in the 2020 100-Day Challenge Cohort 5, a national program that is bringing in an additional $100,000 of technical assistance.

Reason #1 – We have a goal!

Now our region has a goal for reducing homelessness amongst young adults: “In 100 days, we will house 100 young adults ages 16-24, 40% of whom will be LGBTQIA+ and/or survivors of human trafficking.” Fifteen front-line staff from 12 agencies and 2 young adults arrived at this goal during a two-day Workshop held in Charleston, SC in February 2020. The 100-Day Challenge Team came together at that workshop, ready to find solutions, not excuses.

In March 2020, just a couple of weeks into the 100-Day Challenge, a Jacksonville resident picked up a 19-year old woman living on the street. The young woman was experiencing an acute mental health crisis, which is why a stranger reached out and took her to the hospital. The hospital’s psychiatrists decided to keep her as long as possible, in hopes that she would be discharged to a safe place. They considered her a vulnerable young adult.

 Reason #2 – We’re housing young adults during a pandemic

It is all too common for young adults to be discharged to the street after a mental health crisis, not just in Jacksonville—all over the U.S. And facing up to this type of problem is exactly what the 100-Day Challenge is about. Two Challenge Team members got involved almost immediately, but they faced COVID-19-related barriers with all shelters at capacity. Obstacles did not stop them from solving the issue within three days. The young woman was released from the hospital to a clean and newly disinfected room. More than a month later, she still lives there, working with a case manager. Both Challenge Team members credit the fact that the young woman is in permanent housing to the 100-Day Challenge.

 Reason #3 – Our team thinks differently

The Challenge Team identifies the COVID-19 pandemic as just another challenge; they are discussing how digital technology, such as tablets at emergency shelters can connect young adults to services. They’ve started discussions of how to use chat apps during COVID-19 to address case management changes. The solutions compelled by the pandemic are aligned with the 100-Day Challenge, fostering the approach of ‘try it and if it doesn’t work, let it go.’ This spirit of experimentation is now in full force.

The Challenge Team is looking forward to continuing their work after the 100 days. The Team is the DNA of our region’s young adult homelessness system— a system that has its beginnings in the synergy that housed the 19-year old. The Challenge Team and the System Leaders have set their sights on a Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program grant, and a possible infusion of $2.5 million in youth homelessness funding. Of the 21 communities in the U.S. awarded a Youth Homelessness Demonstration grant, ALL completed the 100-Day Challenge.

Thank you, Florida Blue for jumpstarting such powerful work in 2020. We are taking vulnerable young adults off the streets and into homes during the pandemic.

Author: Dr. Laura Lane, Changing Homelessness, Inc.


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