RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded Homeward, a local nonprofit organization, more than $4 million to aid in the fight against homelessness.

Through Greater Richmond Continuum of Care (GRCoC), the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) has received $4,478,877. Homeward is the planning agency for GRCoC that helps people who need housing. The group helps coordinate federal and state-local funding to best utilize homeless services and resources in the region. 

This is the first time that the Richmond region has received dedicated youth funding from HUD. The GRCoC was also the only group in Virginia to receive a grant this year.

The grant was announced Monday, Oct. 24 at Homeward’s office in Richmond.

The Dept of Housing and Urban Development also awarded more than $83 million to 17 other youth housing programs across the country. 

The announcement of funding comes as the number of homeless people is steadily increasing as a result of the pandemic. Local officials say that in Richmond’s homeless community, roughly 7 to 8% of people are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old.

“As a young person with lived experience of homelessness, I’m thrilled that our region has been selected for this grant and that the youth perspective will be a central part of this work,” said Shiloh Tillman, a member of the GRCoC Youth Action Board.

Frances Marie Pugh, the Youth Projects Manager at Homeward, says before any money is distributed the first step is letting the youth action board take the reins to best understand what programs are most helpful to young people. 

Pugh said “I was absolutely shocked. I believe our initial app applied for and requested $2 million, so to receive over double of that is absolutely incredible and really underscores the faith that the HUD has in our community and our ability to address and end youth homelessness.” 

GRCoC claims the focus of this funding is to emphasize youth autonomy so that youth can decide where they want to stay and live to feel safe. Through community-wide efforts and services, their goal is to end homelessness.

“This significant federal funding is a game changer for our region,” said Executive Director with Homeward, Kelly King Horne. “These resources will help our system expand its capacity to serve more youth. Importantly, youth voices and those with lived experience will inform our regional plan.”

For young people interested in joining the youth action board to work with Homeward, Pugh says they are always recruiting. For more information or how you can get involved visit the GRCoC website.