Volunteers from several local groups recently completed a Youth Count to determine the number of homeless individuals in this area between the ages 18 to 25.

Data collected through the count will be used to attempt to secure more funding for local resources and housing opportunities.

The Youth Count program is part of an initiative of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that aims to develop strategies so that communities can better assist the homeless population in this age group. The count is vital to increasing available financial resources in Glynn, McIntosh and Camden counties that can help decrease homelessness.

“We do a Point in Time Count, and this was the first time we targeted this specific age group,” said Jeff Clark, street outreach director for Safe Harbor Children’s Center and one of the count’s leaders.

Safe Harbor and Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority collaborated with the Department of Community Affairs to coordinate the Youth Count. The count took place June 24 to June 28. Questions focused on where the youth slept the night of June 24.

Volunteers were stationed at sites around the community, including Fred’s in Darien, Walmart in Brunswick and Mission for Camden.

“We had a short time to get this done, but we were able to work with three or four different agencies as well as United Way, Coastal Community Action and Safe Harbor,” Clark said.

The questions in the survey focused on whether the youth had been homeless before, whether they’d been in foster care and what barriers they faced to finding housing and employment.

Nearly 25 volunteers took part in the count, and many of the the homeless individuals they spoke to reported that they lived with friends or other family members but did not have housing of their own.

Many had aged out of foster care and continued to need support, Clark said. Most did not have identification, which can be a barrier to finding employment. Others did not graduate from high school and had never received any job training skills.

The homeless youth also often lacked family support, he said.

Homeless individuals in this area are tracked throughout the year by the various programs that aim to offer support, including those provided by Safe Harbor, Coastal Georgia Community Action and Gateway. The data is entered in a coordinated entry services program.

Funding is provided by the DCA to support rapid rehousing and supportive housing programs.

The completion of this count creates opportunities to increase the housing options and other resources in this area, Clark said.

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