Community Youth Housing Solutions: Government Was Never Created To Transition Young People To Adulthood

A program that serves at-risk, homeless youth in Cambridge said it's at risk of shutting down.  Tucked away in a Cambridge basement is a one-stop shop for young people trying to break a cycle before it begins.   Youth on Fire  is a drop-in center for homeless youth in Harvard Square, a place where they can turn to for a hot meal along with showers, laundry, clothes and toiletries.  Above all, Program Director Mandy Lussier said they are there to provide emotional support.  "They sit down with a case manager and they can have a conversation about what they're going through, where they came from and what their goals are,” she said.  Youth on Fire has been helping young people for 17 years.   "As soon as I walked in through the doors you could obviously tell that I was quite distraught, I didn't know where I was, what I was doing, it was my first time being homeless,” said 'Keigh'.  That was two years ago and for 'Keigh', a major turning point.  "I was offered a job as the peer leader for Youth on Fire and ever since then I have been working for them and I hope that I've been able to make a change in other people's lives as they have for me,” said 'Keigh'.  The program could be in jeopardy, with Youth on Fire saying it won’t have funding after Nov. 1 of this year.  A few years ago, Youth on Fire lost $160,000 in funding. This year they lost a $150,000 state grant. The combination of the two losses is too much, they said.  "Youth on Fire has predominantly been funded by the state office of HIV and AIDS and the state Department of Public Health,” said Carl Sciortino with the  AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts , which oversees Youth on Fire.  He said that six months ago they learned they were no longer eligible for their main source of money.  They've applied for state funding and there is support on Beacon Hill, including from State Rep. Marjorie Decker.  "It's really important that we are a part of making sure that they have a safe space and that there are support services ...and that those support services have been secured through state funding, said Decker (D-Cambridge).  "It's so much more than numbers on a piece of paper," said Lussier.  The possibility of funding is being discussed as part of the state budget process. The program hopes to get an answer in September.

A program that serves at-risk, homeless youth in Cambridge said it's at risk of shutting down.

Tucked away in a Cambridge basement is a one-stop shop for young people trying to break a cycle before it begins.

Youth on Fire is a drop-in center for homeless youth in Harvard Square, a place where they can turn to for a hot meal along with showers, laundry, clothes and toiletries.

Above all, Program Director Mandy Lussier said they are there to provide emotional support.

"They sit down with a case manager and they can have a conversation about what they're going through, where they came from and what their goals are,” she said.

Youth on Fire has been helping young people for 17 years. 

"As soon as I walked in through the doors you could obviously tell that I was quite distraught, I didn't know where I was, what I was doing, it was my first time being homeless,” said 'Keigh'.

That was two years ago and for 'Keigh', a major turning point.

"I was offered a job as the peer leader for Youth on Fire and ever since then I have been working for them and I hope that I've been able to make a change in other people's lives as they have for me,” said 'Keigh'.

The program could be in jeopardy, with Youth on Fire saying it won’t have funding after Nov. 1 of this year.

A few years ago, Youth on Fire lost $160,000 in funding. This year they lost a $150,000 state grant. The combination of the two losses is too much, they said.

"Youth on Fire has predominantly been funded by the state office of HIV and AIDS and the state Department of Public Health,” said Carl Sciortino with the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, which oversees Youth on Fire.

He said that six months ago they learned they were no longer eligible for their main source of money.

They've applied for state funding and there is support on Beacon Hill, including from State Rep. Marjorie Decker.

"It's really important that we are a part of making sure that they have a safe space and that there are support services ...and that those support services have been secured through state funding, said Decker (D-Cambridge).

"It's so much more than numbers on a piece of paper," said Lussier.

The possibility of funding is being discussed as part of the state budget process. The program hopes to get an answer in September.