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History and Founders

YES’s History:

YES grew out of the work of the Baltimore Homeless Youth Initiative (BHYI) Youth Leaders. BHYI is a coalition of community and government agencies and committed individuals that seek to fill critical gaps in care for unaccompanied homeless youth (i.e., young people who are homeless and on their own, rather than with their family). BHYI has played a central role in creating resources for homeless youth in Baltimore and strives to ensure that these resources are increasingly integrated and effective.

The BHYI Youth Leaders, a group of young people with personal experiences of homelessness, formed as a subgroup of BHYI during the spring of 2009. The group’s initial efforts were focused on helping to set the direction of, and identify priorities for, the broader BHYI coalition. The Youth Leaders actively sought to gain knowledge of the scale and state of youth homelessness in Baltimore to further inform their own lived experiences. Among other statistics, they learned that in 2011 the Center for Adolescent Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health documented 640 unaccompanied homeless youth in Baltimore based upon a one day “census” – and that only 16 beds for homeless youth under age 18 and no youth drop-in resources exist in Baltimore.

Although there is a youth resource center in Station North that offers service navigation from 9am-5pm by appointment only (City Steps Youth Resource Center operated by AIRS), the Youth Leaders identified the need for a comprehensive, one-stop-shop, drop-in center for youth, that is highly accessible by public transportation, open in the evenings, and staffed by young adults with experiences of homelessness. While no such center currently exists in Baltimore, drop-in centers in other cities, including The Door in New York City (founded in 1972) and My Friend’s Place in Los Angeles (founded in 1988), have effectively served homeless youth for years. When no other service providers moved to create this resource, the Youth Leaders and their adult supporter decided to embark on the challenge.

YES’s Founding Youth Leaders:

Shawn Toyer

Sergio “Money” Hopkins

Davon “ Dae Dae” Ferguson  

Luther Thompson

Samika Dewitt

Maurice “Rees” Ayes


Antonette Okanola

Emmanuel Jackson

Nadja Bentley Hammond

Nick Jones