GREENSBORO, N.C. — Youth Focus, a nonprofit based in Greensboro, is struggling to place young adults experiencing homelessness into affordable, safe housing in the city.
“We get calls, ‘I’m homeless, I need housing, I’m about to be kicked out, I’m sleeping on the couch, I’m sleeping in the car with my child.’ That’s a really tough one to hear,” said Sarah Roethlinger, the organization’s supportive housing program director.
The nonprofit began the Hearth program, aimed at providing permanent housing for 18-25-year-olds in November 2018. Roethlinger says since then, they’ve been able to place eight young adults in apartments in Greensboro.
A point-in-time count by Partners Ending Homelessness shows that this past year, there were 149 18-24-year-olds considered homeless in Guilford County.
“We’ve got the financial assistance, we’ll pay the rent, but the rent’s not affordable to anyone. And the youth is not going to be able to sustain after we pull out,” she said.
Cynithia Graves was the first person to receive rent assistance under the Hearth program. As a student at NC A&T, part-time employee and mother to a 2-year-old, she became homeless in March 2018.
“I was paying for hotels the first two or three weeks of school,” she said.
Graves said that even when she did find affordable housing, it wasn’t suitable for her toddler.
“There have been reviews that there was gun violence in the area, armed robberies, breaking and entering, bug infestations, mold problems things like that,” she said.
Roethlinger hopes to form partnerships with more landlords and apartment complexes to place their youth clients.
“When you build up the youth you’re building up your community, you’re making it safer you’re making it better,” she said.
The program also provides case management and resources for job placement and retention.