TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Tampa $4.6 million dollars to help end and prevent youth homelessness.
“When I was 18 years old, I was pregnant with my first daughter and we were waiting on my mom’s Social Security to come in, we were evicted,” said Zamaya Clark, Youth Action Board chair.
Clark was forced to move into a motel on a voucher with her family of eight. Now at the age of 23, she has a permanent home to raise her own family and is now giving those a chance that she never had.
“To be able to be a person who was homeless in youth, and give back and help so they are not in my situation — that is a blessing in itself,” Clark said.
Jermine Bryon, HUD’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Needs, made the announcement at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County on Wednesday.
Bryon said Tampa is one of 16 communities nationwide that has been granted funds from HUD.
“The goal of the youth homelessness demonstration program is to support selected communities in the development and implementation of a coordinated community approach to preventing an ending youth homelessness,” she said.
Mayor Jane Castor said there is a number of great programs in Tampa, Hillsborough County, and Pinellas County as well.
“It is really an issue that is the responsibility of the entire region, and we have to work hard to end homelessness, but specifically homeless youth,” Castor said.
The program will give housing support and wrap-around services to Tampa’s vulnerable.
“You cannot help homeless people, regardless of what you’re talking about without providing services wraparound services as we found is really the key to keeping people out of homelessness,” said Councilmember Lynn Hurtak.
Councilwoman Hurtak said the council approved the City of Tampa’s budget, which includes funds to combat homelessness. But this $4.6 million will help Tampa’s vulnerable youth, including those aging out of the foster care system.
“They don’t have adults around them, they’re on their own, so the idea of the group homes and working with them so they’re around people who can support them,” Hurtak said.