Homeless Services Consortium to consider two proposals to help vulnerable youth

Madison youth work to end homelessness among peers

MADISON, Wis. — Thirty-six candles with a message helped shine just a little light Thursday night at an event led by a group of young people working end homelessness among their peers.

It was part of a nationwide effort Thursday called “Light the Night” led by the National Runaway Safeline to bring awareness to the experiences of homeless youth and spotlight the resources available to those in crisis.

“Each of the candles represents ten youth and young adults who will experience some type of homelessness throughout any given year in Madison, Dane County,” said Kayla Every, Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program Coordinator.

It’s an experience that for many at the event, including Every, is personal. At least two-thirds of the members of the group, the Youth Action Board, have lived experiences with homelessness.

They’ve been working to help make sure others in Dane County don’t go through a similar struggle. On Thursday, YAB members shared plans they’ve been working on for months to bring more resources to youth experiencing homelessness in Dane County.

It’s their proposal to help spend a $2.5 million federal grant that was awarded to the City of Madison and Briarpatch Youth Services last October.

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“It has been very emotional and overwhelming. I have been really exhausted honestly,” said member Rachel Litchman. “It’s meant that we’re making sure that what we are doing is we’re thinking it out before we are actually going through with our programs.”

Their plan has two parts: The first would bring in a youth-centric transitional housing facility to Madison that would cost about $946,000 and would serve about 30 to 50 young people a year. The second, which would cost about $323,000 annually, would launch a system navigation project to help youth find their way to healthcare, childcare, and food security.

“Every time that we get together and work on this, I really feel as though I’m making a difference,” Every said, “in a way that the younger version of myself really needed.”

The Homeless Services Consortium of Dane County will meet Friday to go over YAB’s proposal. Members said they feel pretty hopeful their plans would be approved. If approved they to have services available by early 2023.