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Homeless youth programs in Valley at risk of losing federal funding

Endowshoot3shot (Photo via Tumbleweed)

Federal dollars are being diverted away from programs that help the Valley’s homeless youth.

That is according to Cynthia Schuler, CEO of Tumbleweed, which serves the Phoenix-area’s homeless youth through transitional housing. She said the program helps young people through jobs and school placement while providing them a temporary place to stay.

She said, however, that the federal government is now putting more money into supportive permanent housing, which more positively affects homeless adults while leaving homeless youth behind.

“The research supports (permanent housing) for adults. Homeless youth are different from adults, they’re very different,” Schuler said. “There has been no research on what works best with homeless youth.”

Schuler said only young people with disabilities can qualify for permanent housing, but for the rest of the Valley’s homeless young people, transitional housing is a better option to get them on track.

“Let’s get to the youth now when we can make a difference in their life and maybe they won’t become a statistic as a chronically homeless person,” Schuler said.

Ed Cabrera, a regional public affairs officer for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said federal resources are limited and they’ve focused on funding approaches that have shown better outcomes for the homeless. That means more money for permanent housing. He does admit that Tumbleweed has performed well with its transitional youth housing program.

“When it comes to youth, and particularly programs that are shown to be effective for that population, the good news in Phoenix is that they’ve actually received funding,” Cabrera said.

Tumbleweed’s transitional housing program is funded for the coming fiscal year, but Schuler said it’s uncertain how much funding the program could receive in future years.

The Maricopa Association of Governments Continuum of Care Regional Committee on Homelessness ultimately makes the decision on what programs go into different tiers. If a homeless support program goes into Tier 1, then it’s likely set for federal funding. If it is placed in Tier 2, it’s more competitive, with proven programs winning out in obtaining federal dollars.

Tumbleweed’s youth transitional housing program was in Tier 2 this year and did receive funding. Cabrera said if Tumbleweed continues to perform well, its youth transitional housing program could continue to get federal funding.

“They’re obviously doing great work and have great outcomes to their work,” Cabrera said.

Schuler said they can’t fully rely on the federal government for funding, stressing the need for churches, civic groups and community members to step up and support their commitment to homeless youth.

“We have a community that says, ‘we don’t want chronic homeless adults on the street.’ I agree with that,” Schuler said. “But we don’t want homeless youth and homeless families on the streets, either.”

Schuler said you can help Tumbleweed through a monetary donation or donating your time.

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