Worcester Youth Homeless Program Needs Funding

The Compass Project, a collaborative effort that surveys and provides assistance to homeless and at-risk young people, is now operating without a budget and is seeking new sources of funding.

According to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, the Compass Project screened about 110 young people into its system in the past year.  This includes providing them with basic supplies, such as food, clothes, a hat and gloves, condoms and a bus pass, and referring them to the right social service organization for additional assistance.  Of those screened, 83 were homeless and 27 were at risk of becoming homeless.

The Compass Project is working toward the goal of establishing a straightforward community-based approach to combat homelessness for people 13 to 25 years old who are unaccompanied, meaning they are not, for example, seeking emergency housing with a parent.

“Homeless youth are different from a classic adult chronic homelessness,” said Laurie Ross, an assistant director and professor of international development and social change at Clark University.
She said that as these young people are still working to get their feet on the ground, this is a prime opportunity to help them become independent.

Ms. Ross worked with the Compass Project in a survey released Thursday that provided a snapshot of homeless youth in the city.

Of 594 young people in Worcester surveyed at homeless shelters, youth programs, in parks, and on the streets in October 2013, 94 were homeless. The results showed that 74 percent of them were actively looking to change their situation, yet the main reason they had not received help was because they were put on a waiting list.

For those homeless and at-risk youth who were screened in through the Compass Project, 77 percent were sent on to youth-focused LUK Inc. About 20 percent of them were referred to the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC), which operates the homeless triage center in Worcester. Community Health Link, which provides support services for mental health, substance abuse and homelessness, was recommended for services to about 17 percent of those youth.

People staying in a shelter, transitional housing, who are couch surfing or literally sleeping on the street, are all considered homeless. Less than half of the survey respondents said they have been living in Worcester for more than a year.

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