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LA kicks off 100-day challenge to house homeless youth

A homeless person sleeps covered with a blanket on a sidewalk near Skid Row in Los Angeles, California on May 12, 2015.
A homeless person sleeps covered with a blanket on a sidewalk near Skid Row in Los Angeles, California on May 12, 2015.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

The L.A. Homeless Services Authority has a bold goal for the next three months: get 100 homeless youth off the streets, into safe housing, and on track to turn their lives around.

The agency kicked off the 100-day challenge on Friday – and officials are optimistic they’ll succeed.

“We think we can meet [our goal], and even exceed it,” Tom Waldman, director of communications for the L.A. Homeless Services Authority, told KPCC.

That confidence comes from the success of a pilot program LAHSA participated it in in Hollywood, under which officials have been able to get an average of 15 youth a month into stable situations – meaning transitional or permanent housing, along with support for educational or job opportunities.

“When you’re young and homeless, if you can get into a safe and stable situation you really have the time to turn your life around and become a productive member of society, and that’s what this is all about,” Waldman said.

There are an estimated 3,500 sheltered and unsheltered homeless youth – people between ages 16 and 25 – in L.A. County. The visibility of homeless youth has been growing in recent years, Waldman said, partly as a result of L.A.’s housing crisis.  

Finding them is a challenge in and of itself: Unlike some older people who have been homeless for decades, young homeless people don’t tend to seek shelter or sleep in the same place day and night – they’re constantly moving around.

If any L.A. residents want to contribute to the effort, Waldman recommends contacting the agency through LAHSA’s website, or getting in touch with local nonprofits across Southern California to offer volunteering services or other resources.

“There’s a lot of sympathy and empathy out there for people on the streets for whatever reason,” he said. “Help is always desired.”