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Shelter opens for homeless, at-risk youth

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Published on: Tuesday, May 07, 2013

By Alexis A. Goring

A new shelter for homeless and runaway youth in Prince George’s County opened its doors to the public last Thursday.

Promise Place is the first publicly supported shelter for homeless and runaway youth within Prince George’s County.

“Studies have shown that homeless and runaway youth are at greater risk for involvement in activities that will negatively impact their adult lives including risky sexual behavior, substance abuse, involvement in the justice system, gang involvement, pro-longed unemployment and poor mental and physical health,” said Gloria L. Brown, director of Prince George’s County Department of Social Services. “Promise Place will offer … interventions that will change the trajectory of these high-risk youth and improve outcomes for them as well as the communities in which they reside.”

Made possible through local, state, federal and private funds, Promise Place is the result of the county’s partnership with Sasha Bruce Youthwork, Inc., a proven provider of youth services. Services offered through Promise Place include case management and screening youth for emergency needs such as food and medical attention.

“Youth will receive a caring and trusting environment where they can begin the process of re-directing and healing,” Brown said. “Counselors will work to determine what resources are needed and re-engage youth in righting their paths.”

The shelter’s goal is to, as stated in a press release, “reunify our youth with a caring adult as quickly as possible, but youth can stay at the shelter up to 21 days. Promise Place will provide a safe haven where we can intervene with young people to interrupt the experience of homelessness and have a greater chance of reducing continued homelessness.”

Brown said the Department of Social Services has provided crisis intervention assistance to young adults “who lost their way” in the past, and the promise made to one young adult in danger became the inspiration for the center’s name.

“One particular young adult who had fallen victim to sex trafficking required the assistance of every division within the department,” Brown said. “After months of working to figure out what resources were available for this child, a promise was made that the next time, we would be ready and get it right much sooner.”

Now that Promise Place is open to the public, needs of its target audience will be more readily met.

“The Department of Social Services spearheaded an initiative to research and address the needs of unstably housed and runaway youth within our community. We had been told that our youth were accessing services in neighboring jurisdictions, yet we had no real data to support who these youth were and where they were,” Brown said.

Prince George’s County subcontracted with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Brown said, to study housing instability among young Prince Georgians.

“Through this research we gained a better understanding of the issues related to this sub population of homeless people in Prince George’s County,” Brown said. “The next step was to get the right people around the table and mobilize resources.”

The shelter covers 4,000 square feet and has the capacity to hold 20 youth — ages 12 to 24 — who are homeless, runaways and unaccompanied. Building renovation funds of $300,000 were secured from a combination of county, state, federal and private funds. Amenities offered include beds for each youth and free meals.

County Executive Rushern Baker also played a role in the creation of Promise Place.

“The county executive has assisted in multiple ways including appropriating funding in the Department of Social Services annual budget for the last three years to establish and maintain transitional housing units for homeless youth as well as funding for the Johns Hopkins Study and a consultant to specifically work with the community on developing an infrastructure to address this need,” Brown said.

Editor’s Note: The location of Promise Place, in order to protect the privacy and security of the residents, will not be published.

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