Advocates try to combat trend of young adult homelessness

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Ending homelessness at the earliest possible age--that's the goal of a new effort in the Bluff City.

Advocates are now focusing on combating the trend of young adults already living on the streets.

Cherie Howard of the Community Alliance for Homelessness spent Wednesday morning trying to put a number on how many homeless there are in Shelby County.

"We feel like homelessness is a solvable problem. People aren't inherently homeless," Howard said.

That number right now is around 6,800. While the number seems high, it's been on the decline for the past five years.

"We know they're out there. We now know more about how to find them and the best way to serve them," Howard said.

Wednesday afternoon, a group of advocates focused their attention on the young adult homeless population--a group they said is harder to calculate because they aren't usually found in a shelter or out on the street.

The Memphis Youth Count allowed the 18- to 24-year-old homeless men and women to get a haircut, grab a bite to eat, and receive HIV testing.

It also gave them a chance to connect with services they have a difficult time finding out on the streets.

"We're trying to create a space where if you didn't know that these services existed, you could come here and even just find out about some of the programs and services Memphis has for youth," Stephanie Reyes with OutMemphis said.

OutMemphis is scheduled to open a youth homeless drop-in center later this year.

It's a move Reyes feels will help to cut down the Memphis youth homeless population.

"More spaces where that age group can come and just get those immediate needs to get them into housing," Reyes said.

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