Advocates fighting to end youth homelessness in the Philadelphia region and across the country will get an influx of new cash to bolster their efforts next year.
Congress on Friday approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill that includes $42.5 million in new money for initiatives to help homeless young people.
The increased funding, supported by U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), will be used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to expand housing access for homeless youth in cities and rural towns and test new strategies to combat the problem.
"It's especially bad when we live in a country with so much wealth, but so many young people are particularly vulnerable when they don't have a place to stay," Casey told NBC10.
HUD and community partners will also work to develop better ways to count homeless youth — a particularly challenging effort.
A nationwide count in January 2014 found nearly 200,000 young people up to age 24 were homeless. In Philadelphia, more than 600 kids self-identified as homeless during a count this January, but experts say the numbers are likely much higher.
John Ducoff, executive director of Covenant House Pennsylvania, which runs the city's only shelter specifically helping homeless youth, describes the kids as "invisible."
"Our young people do not want to be known as homeless, so they go to incredible efforts to hide that fact," he said.
Casey made a public push for new funding in October on the heels of the NBC10 Digital Exclusive investigation Faces of Homeless Youth. The in-depth project highlighted the problem in Philadelphia through the eyes of more than a dozen current or formerly homeless young people. Among the issues raised is a lack of services for young people between the ages of 18 and 24 years old.
The senator, who has a history of supporting projects helping youth, praised the series as a way to bring more attention to the issue overall.
Explore Faces of Homeless Youth and learn how you can get involved in the fight to end youth homelessness in our special section here.