GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kent County organization is working to combat homelessness among people ages 14 to 24 by offering housing options and more resources.

Since its inception, the As You Are Youth Collective has housed more than 65 people and recovered nearly 200 vital documents to facilitate their independence.

“We help youth with resources,” youth advocate Korey Mills said. “So any resources that they may need from vital documents, housing, employment, counseling — just anything that can set up a youth to become more independent and just live a regular life.”

The AYA Youth Collective offers youth a drop-in location on State Street between Lafayette and Prospect avenues in Grand Rapids where they can get a warm meal and use showers, washing and drying machines and other services.

The As You Are Youth Collective in Grand Rapids. (Feb. 1, 2023)
The As You Are Youth Collective in Grand Rapids. (Feb. 1, 2023)

“We support youth exactly where they are in life and help make sure that they get to the place where they want to go,” Director of Advancement Andy Allen said. “We know that over 200 youth were sleeping outside in July and that number continues to go up and down. They need housing, they need resources, and they need relationships to make sure that they find stability.”

Last year’s Point in Time Count through the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness found there was a 17% increase from the year before in people who experienced both sheltered and unsheltered homelessness on a single night.

The coalition was one of 17 communities that got grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last year. The nearly $2.5 million will go to a community plan that will take a multipronged approach to combat youth homelessness. That community plan will be submitted to HUD this April.