SANTA CRUZ (CBS SF) — Homeless youth in Santa Cruz County are about to get a much-needed hand up from the feds. The county is just one of 10 communities in the nation to qualify for a new grant program – a $2.2 million U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development grant.

The county and other non-profit organizations applied for federal money that’ll provide basic services to youth such as showers and meals, as well as help them find homes.

A quarter of Santa Cruz County’s homeless population — nearly 600 people — are under 24 years old.

Rayne Marr, the county’s Homeless Services Coordinator, said she believed the county was a long shot for the grant, despite the need. ”I think it’s a pretty serious problem. I mean, we have one of the highest rates of unsheltered youth in the nation.”

At just 13 years old, George Titsworth IV’s father lost his home and moved his family into a camper. Then at 17, he found himself in foster care. One year later, Titsworth became homeless himself.

“After I turned 18, I was just kind of let out onto the streets,” he said. I didn’t have any parents. I didn’t have any guidance.”

But because he was in the foster care system, he had access to services. Other homeless youth in Santa Cruz County are not so lucky. But that’s all about to change.

“This new money is going to bring online a drop-in center for homeless youth that should be able to serve 35-50 youth per day,” said Marr.

Today Titsworth is 23, going to college and living in a dorm. He also has a job on the county’s youth advisory board helping homeless teens and young adults.

“This is going to be an incredibly powerful force in our community, this money and how it’s going to be used,” said Titsworth.

The money is expected in this fall and could be renewed every couple of years, so these services may turn into staples in the community to help struggling kids.

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