A Safe Place for Homeless Youth

Many know that the city has shelters available for homeless men and women and their families. But where do teens and other youth go when they have no place else?

Lara Law has been working with youth leaders from across the city to help provide—and build—the answer to that question: a comprehensive drop-in resource center for homeless youth, youth who have transitioned out of the foster care system or youth living in unstable housing.

Law will use her OSI-Baltimore Community Fellowship to assist the youth who are working to get such a center built most likely in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. Many of the youth leaders with whom she is working have themselves been homeless or have lived in unstable housing. Some, she says, still encounter instability from time to time.

“The youth leaders identified this kind of center as a missing piece in the array of services available in Baltimore City,” Law says. “They said they had a need for this at some earlier point in their young lives, and they know people who need it right now.”

As Law and the youth leaders envision it, young people will be able to use the drop-in center to meet many of the basic needs most of us take for granted.

“They’ll be able to get some food, do laundry, take a shower, hopefully store belongings securely, house important documents or get copies made,” Law says.

Staff or volunteers at the center will help the youth apply for government benefits and connect with schools or employment opportunities. The center will also be a place where youth can go to learn independent living skills from their peers and professionals and make direct connections with workforce development, training and certification programs, she says.

“More than anything, it will be a place for them to regroup,” Law says. “They’ll be able to connect with other youth and people who have been in their shoes, to help them feel at ease, at rest. It will be a safe place.”

These youth, originally known as the Baltimore Homeless Youth Initiative, have merged with the Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center.

“They are all energetic and passionate young adult leaders,” Law says.

Currently, the Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center is handling fundraising for the building, while the youth in the group are working on other critical aspects of the work: planning and fundraising for the drop-in center’s programs, skill building, organizing and advocacy.

“It may be a longer-term endeavor to get the center up and running as comprehensively as we’d like,” Law says. “But in the short term, we can continue to build a group of youth leaders who can serve youth coming out of foster care and homeless youth. It’s also important for us to work on identifying the issues that are barriers to this population and engage in removing them.”

Law, originally from Maine, has a passion for creating opportunities for young people. An experience working for Outward Bound here introduced her to the city, and after pursuing higher education and other career-building opportunities, Law decided to bring her skills back to Baltimore.

“There was great need here and opportunity to do the kind of work I’m interested in,” she says. “And I also found a real community here. I could have moved on but the community and the work has held me.”

1 Comment

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I love the idea of a drop in center for teens. I have so much compassion but very little money, for our young people who dont have anyone or much of anything. I am a LCSW-C for Baltimore City Schools and have been looking for a part time position in between the hours of 4 and 9pm. If you have any opening, please let me know where I can apply to assist. It would be my pleasure. Thank you

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