Baltimore drop-in center opens on North Charles Street

BALTIMORE - A comfortable couch, a refrigerator filled with food and a flat-screen TV---they may seem like the basics in any teenager's home, but not if they're homeless.

"I grew up in a home where my mother was a binge alcoholic," said Luther Thompson who spent almost five years on the street, "She ended up dying when I was 11, and I moved with my father to Indianapolis, Indiana."

Handed off to foster care at 16 and sent packing from that system two years later, Thompson returned to Maryland to live with his brother.

But his sibling was killed, and Thompson ended up back out on the street.

"Unfortunately, especially in the City of Baltimore, up until maybe the past six months to a year, youth homelessness was the pink elephant in the room that nobody noticed," said Thompson.

The latest estimate suggests there are more than 600 homeless youths in the city, and now Thompson and three others who have faced the same challenge are manning a new drop-in center to help others just like them.

The Youth Empowered Society… or YES Center has some very basic goals.

"Get their ducks in a row," said Center Director Lara Law, "Get their identification worked out.  Get their housing applications in and their food stamp application in and work on their resume and do all those things.  We're serving as sort of a one-stop shop, but we're not a shelter."     

Whether it's health screening and counseling or just a computer, a telephone or an address to use on a job application, homeless youths ranging in age from 14 to 25 can find it at 2315 North Charles Street, along with four counselors that know what they're going through firsthand.

"I experienced homelessness periodically over the course of about five years," said Thompson, "We thought that no one could understand where a youth is unless they've been there."    

In its first ten weeks, the center has already began work to turn around the lives of two dozen youth clients and a hundred more have sought refuge or a hot meal there.

If you'd like to make a tax-deductible donation, you can make checks payable to:

Fusion Partnerships, Inc. (with YES on the memo line), 2315 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218

Donations also can be made online at wepay.com

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