The clashes that left at least 144 vehicles and 15 structures on fire also claimed much of the center’s space, sometime between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. in the 2300 block of North Charles, Law said. Video surveillance showed no one entering the building, so Law believes someone “threw something burning through the front windows.” Firefighters who responded had to hack down the front door with an ax to gain entry. On Tuesday, the drop-in center – a safe space for homeless youth during the day and a hub of information for them to connect with other service providers – was a sad sight. It’s front office space had a layer of thick black sludge from ash and water to smother the flames.
YES is a youth-led, organization being incubated by the not-for-profit Fusion Partnership. YES describes itself as follows:
YES Drop-In Center is Baltimore City’s first and only drop-in center for homeless youth. YES Drop-In Center is a safe space for youth who are homeless and between the ages of 14-25, to get basic needs met and establish supportive relationships with peer staff and allies that help them make and sustain connections to long-term resources and opportunities… YES develops the leadership and workforce skills of homeless and formerly homeless youth through our peer-to-peer model: providing training, coaching, and employment so youth staff can effectively serve their peers and achieve meaningful, livable-wage employment after their time with YES. YES employs seven homeless and formerly homeless youth (three who serve full-time, and four part-time) and four staff who are allies…
Statistics on homelessness are unreliable, but on any single day it is estimated at least 600 Baltimore youth are homeless. In any one year more than 2000 students enrolled in Baltimore City schools experience some period of homelessness. Last year YES claimed to have served about one-third of this population.
Is any of this a homeland security issue?
If an emergency management agency was trying to serve “vulnerable populations” or enhance the resilience of the “whole community”, I expect YES would be a meaningful organization to engage.
If YES was serving a mostly Somali, Yemeni, or several other immigrant communities, would it be on some sort of intelligence scan? If it was serving the educational and employment needs of undocumented immigrants to the United States, would a couple of DHS components be interested in YES?
I think reasonable people can disagree on whether or not the issue of youth homelessness is a homeland security issue. There is an even stronger case, at least in my mind, for it not being a Homeland Security issue.
But I also suggest that what we have seen happen in Baltimore — and in Minneapolis, Paris, Birmingham (UK and US), Hamburg, and elsewhere — provides plenty of evidence that these social issues are not unrelated to Homeland Security.
This evidence also points to the role that civic enterprises — such as YES — can perform at the seams between individuals, communities, and the public sector. Boundaries are important in the public sector. Carefully observed — and enforced — limits are especially important in a field like counter-terrorism. For a whole host of reasons from fiscal to constitutional, we don’t want public sector agencies blithely stepping outside their statutory roles.
But there are also profound problems that messily spill over these important boundaries.
For too long, it seems to me, we have viewed smaller civic enterprises as peripheral, charitable, one-offs. The evidence is accumulating that they are, instead, crucially important contributors to any systemic and sustainable strategy for engaging a wide-range of social challenges… including several regularly featured at this blog.