Baltimore City Youth Action Board

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The Baltimore City Youth Action Board (YAB) is a youth advocacy board that advocates on behalf of homeless youth and young adults ages 16-24. As a lived experience committee of the Baltimore City Continuum of Care (CoC), YAB assists in directing funding from the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP) to organizations that support homeless youth and young adults. 

Most members of the YAB have experienced some form of homelessness in their lives, and much like other youth with similar experiences, they found that resources and assistance is limited. Saleen Lewis, treasurer for the YAB, recalled seeing eviction notices posted at her residence and having her household’s electricity turned off for days at a time while growing up in West Baltimore. Those instances were signs of housing instability that would later fuel Lewis’ passion for advocating for the needs of our youth, especially minorities and marginalized groups. 

“BIPOC [black, indigenous, and other people of color] groups are all underserved in some way, especially in these heavily populated areas. The resources are stripped away and the people in power don’t care about us. So, when the school system is underfunded, there's no resources in the neighborhood, and job resources are limited – all those are immediate pipelines to homelessness a lot of the time,” said YAB Treasurer Saleen Lewis. Empowered by her Native American heritage, Lewis supports her community by lending her skills at the Baltimore American Indian Center in East Baltimore with hopes of being a mentor for native youth as she continues advocating for the issues facing people of color at large.

That is one of the things that makes the YAB such a dynamic group: it is a diverse collective of youth with shared experiences who are making their voices heard and paying it forward to the rising generation. “Youth homelessness actually gets overlooked a lot,” said YAB Co-Chair Levy Johnson. The YAB is involved in multiple projects and initiatives all for the betterment of youth including building and maintaining a youth resource guide designed to make resources more accessible for youth experiencing homelessness. 

Members of the YAB also sit on numerous committees and boards concerning youth in Baltimore to better understand their varying needs and actively be a part of crafting practical solutions to help our young people chart a new path in the right direction. “It’s about what you want to change when you come into the advocacy realm. It is not about this one organization because this one organization is a part of multiple organizations that are making change. When you become an organizer or advocate you have the opportunity to enhance multiple areas of your life,” said YAB Community Liaison Blou Harrison.  

The YAB membership gives Baltimore youth an all-access pass to invaluable resources like professional and workforce development, mentorship, educational opportunities, and advocacy. YAB members are also engaged in national and local politics through lobbying and testifying on bills and policies impacting homeless youth and young adults on Capitol Hill and in Annapolis. “...It is a greater purpose. I have to show up for the entirety of the youth in Baltimore city. If you want to be all in, be all in,” said YAB Co-Chair Levy Johnson. 

The YAB is currently seeking funding to establish programs and initiatives that further help divert homelessness for Baltimore youth. For more information about the YAB, to partner, or become a member email Keep up with the YAB on social media @bmoreyab, and tune in to their bi-weekly podcast, “Baltimore Youth Impact Podcast”, on YouTube.

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