This dangerous cold has authorities concerned about the homeless. There are never enough beds in shelters, but that is especially true for homeless young people.

Right now there are 12 homeless shelter beds in New Haven specifically for young people. There are an estimated 800 homeless youth in the New Haven area. This idea would bring in a concept from the Boston area to make at least a dent in those numbers.

“I started experiencing housing instability and general homelessness while I was a teenager,” said Michaelle Gonzalez, who is now part of the Youth Continuum Youth Advisory Board.

Youth Continuum, on Grand Avenue, is the first stop for most New Haven youth dealing with homelessness. They have access to a computer lab, as well as donated clothes and food, and there’s a place to just hang out and stay warm.

“You don’t know how many kids you walk by, or how many kids sitting in school are not paying attention and thinking of when’s their next meal and where’s the next place we’re going to sleep?” Gonzalez said.

“It’s a much bigger problem than most people realize,” said Outreach Case Manager Elizabeth Larkin. She works with teens who are aging out of the foster system, or getting out of abusive homes, or getting kicked out of a home because of their sexual orientation. That’s what happened to Gonzalez.

“I was experiencing a lot of rejection from my peers and other people around me close to me for my LGBT identity,” said Gonzalez.

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Here’s the problem, though: Youth Continuum only operates from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, so at 5:00 p.m., everybody has to leave and go back out into the cold and figure out where to spend the night.

“What we’d like to say is, ‘You don’t have to make that choice,'” said Sam Greenberg, co-founder of Y2Y. “We’re going to be open, we’re going to have a safe, warm, welcoming bed, and on a day like today, we know that can make a huge difference.”

Y2Y, is a youth homelessness program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They opened up a shelter, with beds, about three years ago. “Y2Y” stands for Youth to Youth, because it’s a lot of college students helping out homeless youth and their particular needs.

“We know that young people are really vulnerable on the street, but they won’t stay in adult shelters,” Greenberg explained. “They will resort to other ways to get their needs met.”

Youth Continuum does run a small shelter in another part of New Haven, but now wants to join with Y2Y to turn their big empty basement on Grand Avenue into a 20-bed shelter.

“They’re already here and that feeling of stability and familiarity is so important,” Larkin said.

They already have some ideas what it would look like, with the hope of more success stories like Gonzalez’s. She wants to study to be a social worker.

“I want to give back to the community that helped me so much, because I don’t know where I would be right now if I didn’t get these services that I got here from Youth Continuum,” said Gonzalez.

Adding a couple dozen beds may not seem like a lot with hundreds of homeless youth out there, but remember, the shelter is not permanent. The hope is they spend a couple month in the shelter and the programs in place get them a job and something more permanent, freeing up the bed for the next young person.