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Columbus Group Awarded $6 Million To Help Homeless Youth

Michael Lee
Community Shelter Board, a Columbus anti-homelessness organization, was awarded a $6 million HUD grant on Monday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded a Columbus organization a $6.07 million grant to combat youth homelessness in the city.

Community Shelter Board executive director Michelle Heritage says they'll examine the needs of the community before they implement the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program Grant.

"After the planning process is done, we'll begin to fund those services and programs to start work on the plan," Heritage says.

The Columbus Foundation hosted the grant presentation on Monday, which included words from Mayor Andrew Ginther.

During his speech, Ginther cited some "sobering facts, or, incredible opportunities" of homeless youth. In 2017, he said, over 1,300 youth ages 24 and under were served in homeless shelters. Hundreds of unaccompanied youth between the ages of 14 and 24 visited Star House, a 24/7 drop-in center for homeless youth.

"This is unacceptable in America's opportunity city," Ginther said. "No person in our community should be living without stable and supportive housing."

With the grant, Community Shelter Board is hoping to help more Columbus residents like Skye Vanic. When Vanic was pregnant with her daughter, she was told that if she did not have stable housing, her daughter would be taken away.

So, she reached out to the Center for Healthy Families—a group that helps parenting teens—who led her to the Huckleberry House, an organization that helps teens facing issues such as abuse, addiction and homelessness.

"If it wasn't for them two centers, my daughter wouldn't be here with me today," Vanic says. "My daughter would be in foster care."

Groups in 11 cities around the U.S. received the demonstration grant. Columbus received the second-largest amount of grant money.

Michael Lee joined WOSU in 2021, but was previously an intern at the station in 2018. He is a graduate from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism where he obtained his master's degree, and an alumnus of Ohio State University. Michael has previously worked as an intern at the Columbus Dispatch and most recently, the Chicago Sun-Times.