CLEVELAND — In a major step toward combatting housing insecurity among youth, Cuyahoga County has been awarded a multi-million dollar federal grant to help young people get roofs over their heads.

What You Need To Know

  • Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services awarded nearly $4M

  • The money is earmarked for helping programs that deal with youth homelessness

  • A Place 4 Me is one of several area programs dedicated to helping youth with housing insecurity

According to the Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services (OHS), the department was awarded nearly $4 million by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to enhance and grow the county’s work to strengthen systems to end youth homelessness in Cuyahoga County. The money is being given on behalf of the Cuyahoga County Continuum of Care (CoC).

In a news release, OHS said its selection for this grant award is due in part to the work that’s been done locally for many years to decrease the number of youth experiencing homelessness. 

Since 2014, Cuyahoga County’s efforts have been led by the OHS, A Place 4 Me, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, a collective impact initiative of funders, other government agencies and direct service providers.

“This was our fifth time applying for the grant,” said Ebony Clayton, who works for A Place 4 Me, which is based in Cleveland. 

A Place 4 Me centers on the idea that all youth will have a place to call home, especially those with high risk of homeless or those transitioning from the foster care system. 

“Every young person deserves a place to belong, a place to call home,” said Christie Sozio, associate director of A Place 4 Me. 

Sozio said A Place 4 Me coordinates the planning and implementation of local efforts, including help with housing, employment, education, permanency, physical and mental health, financial capability and social capital for youth.

“Housing is essential. It’s a foundation for all other goals,” she said, noting that over 500 young people between the ages of 18-24 are homeless each year in Cuyahoga County and many have children of their own.

The grant, Sozio said, is especially a major win for the county and for area organizations like A Place 4 Me, given the escalating struggles over the past few years, ranging from inflation to increase in rent to navigating the pandemic.

“The real fear of being in congregate shelters is very real for young people,” Sozio said. 

According to A Place 4 Me, the county and Continuum of Care will begin a six-month Coordinated Community Plan process and identify programs whose investment will have the greatest impact on providing customized services for youth in preventing/ending youth homelessness. HUD funds are flexible and renewable, which should result in sustainable, innovative, long-term programming.