September 30, 2021
A Place 4 Me, the community’s initiative to prevent and end youth homelessness, has partnered with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, young adult leaders, local funders and service providers to introduce a drop-in center where young people seeking housing stability can find respite and safety.
Drop-In Centers are regarded as critical elements of a systemic approach to prevent and end youth homelessness, yet Cuyahoga County remains the only major urban area in Ohio without one.
What is a youth drop-in center?
A youth drop-in center is a place where young people (ages 16–24) striving for the stability of a home can find respite and safety while working to achieve their goals. They are not shelters, and do not provide overnight bed capacity. A recent study found that young people striving for housing stability are more than twice as likely to use drop-in centers than shelters.
The trauma of housing instability can prevent young people from meeting their basic needs, like food and hygiene. These individuals also need simple access to community support services. A drop-in center provides access to laundry, hot showers, clothing, a kitchen, and meals, as well as a space to form relationships and community with other young people and supportive staff.
Young people ages 16-24 are still in an adolescent stage of development and benefit from peer connection and support from those who have similar experiences. Onsite staff would include a team of peer navigators available to work with guests to develop plans to meet long-term goals related to housing, education, employment, and health and wellness. Another recent study found that young people utilizing services within drop-in centers demonstrated improved social-emotional well-being and service connection outcomes, both of which are critical to supporting stable housing for young people.
Why does Cuyahoga County need a youth drop-in center?
Last year, more than 600 young adults (ages 18 to 24) in Cuyahoga County sought emergency housing services and support. More than 235 Cleveland Metropolitan School District students over the age of 15 experience homelessness at any given time, and about 120 youth leave Cuyahoga County’s foster care system annually without the emotional and financial support of family, leaving them particularly vulnerable to housing instability.
Nearly 80 percent of young people experiencing homelessness in Cuyahoga County are Black/African American. Black young adults experiencing homelessness are faced with the dual impacts of systemic racism and a homeless system not created to address racism. The youth drop-in center focuses on racial equity to both meet the needs of young people and work to redress systemic racism.
Nationally, 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness are part of the LGBTQ community. These young people often face additional challenges when seeking shelter and safety. The youth drop-in center uses an LGBTQ equity lens to ensure young people feel welcome and safe, affirmed, and are able to connect to resources that will meet their needs.
The development of the Youth Drop-In Center is endorsed and supported by core partners of A Place 4 Me, the community’s initiative to prevent and end homelessness for young people under the age of 24 through youth leadership, systems change, and direct service. A Place 4 Me’s REACH board is made up of young adult leaders with lived expertise in housing instability who inform and co-lead the effort to create a more equitable and effective system of support for young people experiencing homelessness. Plans for the center are approaching the end of their initial phase, with a target opening date of May 2022.
Building upon its continuum of youth resiliency services, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry (LMM) will serve as the operating partner of the youth drop-in center. LMM will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the center, staffing and volunteers, safety and security, onsite service provision, partnerships, outreach, donation management, and facility management. A Place 4 Me staff as well as other partners providing services related to housing stability and overall wellness (education and employment services, health and wellness services, public benefit access, housing assistance, etc.) will also be on site within the center.
The core partners of A Place 4 Me include:
- REACH Youth Action Board
- YWCA Greater Cleveland
- EDEN, Inc.
- FrontLine Service
- Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry
- Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services
- Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services
- Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland
- Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative
- Ohio Healthy Transitions Project