Cincinnati homeless numbers show nearly 40 percent of homeless people in Hamilton County are under the age of 25. Now, thanks to a grant from the United Health Foundation (UHF), one Miami Valley organization hopes to more quickly connect young people in crisis to the services they need to get better and get on their feet.
The Cincinnati-based Lighthouse Youth and Family Services group currently provides assistance to more than 5,000 young people who are homeless, caught up in the juvenile justice system, or living in other so-called crisis situations.
The group offers mental health, psychiatric and other home-based programs.
In the past, Lighthouse organizers say the time it took to assess new client and move them into the right program often meant delaying help - potentially adding to an already traumatic situation and putting them at further risk.
Lighthouse President and CEO, Paul Haffner, says an influx of additional funding from UHF will help expand services across the Miami Valley and connect more at-risk young people to the help they need more quickly.
“You used to have to set up an appointment and come visit us in our headquarters building in the city in an urban area. And now we're meeting our clients where they are whether that's at home in school out in the community or any other place where they might be. So it really expands access to services for the young people and the families and reduces those barriers of office hours transportation job issues for mom or dad or foster parent. It's something that I think will expand and is good for all of Ohio.”
Lighthouse officials say there is still more data that underscores the importance of their mission, and the potential impact of the $840,000 grant from the United Health Foundation - an arm of United Health Group, a global healthcare service agency.
The data, according to Lighthouse, shows that “in 2018 there were 598 unduplicated homeless individuals ages 18-24 in Hamilton County, 75 percent of whom were minorities, 8 percent of whom were LGBTQ, and 10 percent of whom were parents of young children.” And “on any given night in 2018, between 63 and 108 children and young adults were unaccompanied (without their family) and experiencing homelessness.”
The new funding will enable Lighthouse YFS to operate mobile team-units to more quickly reach clients in the Cincinnati-Hamilton area. They also hope to expand the mobile units into Montgomery and Ross counties.
UnitedHealthcare Community & State CEO, Heather Cianfrocco, also serves on the UHF board and says the services Lighthouse is providing in southwest Ohio, fit well with their mission to improve health care access and outcomes for children in Ohio.
“The work that lighthouse is doing to transition individuals out of homelessness into stability is a large part of that [mission] because we know that individuals are healthier when they have stable environments and their essential needs are taken care of,” she says. “Our grant was really to help lighthouse do great work they're already doing in helping individuals get assessed and get access to behavioral health and medical services. Our grant was to speed up that process, reduce the time from intake into the system to assessment and to receiving care.”
While the grant from UHF moves the healthcare ball forward for youth in crisis in Cincinnati, Paul Haffner says his organization is tackling other big issues as well.
“We don't go above age 24 [years of age], but a lot of affordable housing issues impact our young family members who might be displaced due to an eviction or due to losing their home. Transportation issues are particularly acute in Cincinnati and I'm sure they are as well in the Greater Dayton area. We have to find a way to have affordable housing in our urban core, or near the core. We have to have a way for people to get the jobs, for people to get the doctor's appointments or for us to get to them. So, it's [also] affordable housing and transportation that we're very focused on as policy issues here in Hamilton County as well as Dayton.”
It’s into Dayton and also Ross county that Lighthouse Youth and Family Services hopes to expand the mobile units funded by UHF next.