Emmanuel Kendrick didn't request any particular housewarming gifts. He definitely needs stuff for his new place – just about everything, really – but already he feels as if he has all he could want.
"Honestly," Kendrick said as he toured the Marsh Brook Place apartments in Columbus, Ohio, the United States, for the first time,"I can't ask for anything more."
Kendrick's mask hid his smile, but not the tears in his eyes. After years of anguish and homelessness, the 21-year-old is moving into a safe, clean and comfortable home, one with on-site staff and supportive services to help him and other young adults thrive.
The 40-unit project was funded with about US$9mil (RM37.3mil) in public and private money. It is the first in Franklin County designed specifically to meet the needs of young people aged 18 to 24 who have faced homelessness and other serious barriers to stability.
Joseph Galvan, a regional administrator at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the Southeast Side complex stands above similar projects for youths in other metro areas.
"There are other developments, but this is cutting edge," he said, praising the open design and grounds. "This is a family living environment."
Community Housing Network is the developer, owner and property manager for Marsh Brook Place, while the youth-serving nonprofit agency Huckleberry House is providing on-site services such as counselling and job training.
All or most of the rent for each tenant, depending on whether they have any income, is covered through federal subsidies.
"We know this is going to be high-need, and the services are going to be more intensive," said Sonya Thesing, executive director of Huckleberry House. "An 18-, 19- or 20-year-old who's been living outside needs a lot of support."
The project also is a part of the Community Shelter Board's Community Plan for Youth initiative, which was funded with a grant from HUD. The grant was to be used to develop a plan for addressing youth homelessness in the Columbus area.
"I love that we're celebrating this, because we should," Thesing said of Marsh Brook Place. "But it's a dent. There are 3,000 other youth who need this."
South Side resident Helen Maynard was among those participating in the drive-through housewarming, her car packed with dozens of packages of toilet paper, soap, toothpaste and other items.
"My niece told me about it, and I contacted my people and said, 'Let's do this, ''' Maynard said. "It's good to do something good."
Jerome DeCarlo, who will serve as the coordinator at Marsh Brook Place, said it's difficult to put into words what the homes will mean to Kendrick and the other youths.
"As you might imagine, it's been a long, difficult road," DeCarlo said of Kendrick's journey. "But this young man has stayed consistent. Anything I asked him to do, he's done. This is really a triumphant achievement."
Kendrick said he's been "floating around" since 2017, though he did manage to graduate from high school. He sometimes curled up in a car at night; occasionally he slept on park benches.
"I don't know if you can imagine it, but it's hard feeling that pain," Kendrick said. "All I can think about right now is the first night I get to sleep here. I can be comfortable and not have to worry about somebody waking me up. I'll be OK." – The Columbus Dispatch/Tribune News Service
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