Springfield, MA – Mayor Domenic J. Sarno and Housing Director Geraldine McCafferty joined with the Springfield-Hampden County Continuum of Care (CoC) for the launch of its coordinated plan to prevent and end youth and young adult homelessness and as they announce new services to meet the needs of this population. The new services include a single number for youth up through age 24 to call if they are homeless or having a housing emergency. Young people can call (413) 316-4979, and the phone will be answered by trained staff who can provide advice and access to assistance to address the housing problem.
The phone number is available 24/7 and will be answered by youth services staff at Gandara Center or the Center for Human Development.
Mayor Domenic J. Sarno stated, “Some of the most heartbreaking calls my office receives are about young people who have nowhere to go. I want to thank and acknowledge Housing Director Gerry McCafferty and her dedicated team of housing advocates for their unyielding work on this issue. I am relieved that we now have a clear place to be able to direct them to get help.”
The CoC was awarded a $2.8 million Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in August 2019. The grant required the CoC to conduct a year-long planning process to create a coordinated community plan and design new services to be funded by the grant. The CoC worked with multiple nonprofits providers, state and local agencies, school systems and youth themselves to understand the needs of young people who experience homelessness and to design a system that responds to those needs. Our community’s plan, called Into the Spotlight, has been approved by HUD and is released today. It is available at the website: www.IntotheSpotlightHampden.org.
Chris Coburn, a young adult who was involved in the planning process, said “I felt like the input of youth was really valued in the sessions. We were treated as equal partners in the planning, and I think the plan is better because it responds to our needs.”
Into the Spotlight calls for creation of a simplified way for young people in a housing crisis to find and access services, as well as a range of new programs to address the needs of the youth being served. The YHDP grant funds support the primary building blocks of the plan. In addition to the Coordinated Entry and Navigation Center that can be accessed by a single phone number, the other new programs include transitional housing, rental assistance, and permanent supportive housing units. The new programs are accessed through the single number, and are operated by the Center for Human Development, Gandara Center, and the Mental Health Association.
Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Health and Human Services for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which is providing matching funds for the federal grant, congratulated the City of Springfield and the CoC.
Secretary Sudders stated, “I applaud this effort. Every youth should have stable housing, a place to go home to, a home that is their own, to spring them into adulthood and a good life ahead.”
In addition to the new programs, the plan calls for increased coordination and access to services. Springfield has hired a new Youth & Young Adult Homeless Program Manager, Lizzy Ortiz, to oversee the plan. Ms. Ortiz urges community members to go to the website www.IntotheSpotlightHampden.org to read the plan, sign up for updates, and get involved in committees that will implement the plan.