AYA Youth Collective expands its direct cash transfer project

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A Grand Rapids organization that works with homeless youth plans to expand a program that gives them money with no strings attached.

AYA Youth Collective was one of ten organizations across the country to receive funding from Point source youth for a direct cash transfer (DCT) project.

DCTs provide money to people without any stipulation.

“We understand that this is really hard for some people to understand,” said Li Kaplan, housing specialist at AYA Youth Collective. “Why would we want to give an 18 year old potentially thousands of dollars?”

Last fall, AYA piloted a DCT program.

According to Kaplan, 14 young people between the ages of 18 and 24 received between $200 and $4,000 with the hope that they would use it to obtain and maintain safe housing.

READ MORE: ‘I ended up living in a tent for a whole summer’; Event Highlights Rise in Youth Homelessness

“They want stability,” Kaplan said. “It’s just a matter of not having the resources to make it happen and not having the confidence to be able to ask for those resources or stick to them.”

She added: “Basically all it takes is for a young person to apply, saying, ‘This is a need that I identified. It’s how much I need to be able to put myself somewhere where I feel stable and safe.

Four participants moved into housing within weeks and two others avoided eviction due to the accident.

Although small, Kaplan calls the results a success.

She says that although many organizations in Kent County offer help, their programs sometimes include requirements that can be a barrier for a young homeless person, such as requiring a driver’s license to apply.

“We talk to young people experiencing homelessness and tell them that they are the experts in their own lives,” Kaplan said. “We have to honor that and we honor that by providing them with resources in this way.”

With funding from Point Source Youth, AYA intends to help ten more young people. People can also reapply for money.

Kaplan hopes the unconventional approach will lead to better results for young people who apply.

We humanize them,” Kaplan said. “We put a name to all these awards, they are real people with whom we work on a daily basis. We hold them accountable.

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