Nonprofit Lost-n-Found Youth expands to help kids in crisis

Less than a decade after its creation, nonprofit Lost-n-Found Youth has grown to become one of the primary service providers for homeless youth in the city and the go-to organization for homeless LGBTQ youth.

In November, LNFY moved into a new youth drop-in center in Grant Park and added additional beds and housing for youth transitioning out of crisis. Under the helm of new co-directors, Nasheedah Bynes-Muhammad and Ernest Walker, LNFY said it has more than tripled the amount of youth it’s currently able to house.

The new youth center comes out of a partnership with Park Avenue Baptist Church
in Grant Park, where LNFY occupies the second floor of its campus. The location provides optimal space for the organization’s programs and services as well as convenient
access to public transit, greenspace and other amenities. An added benefit: just a floor above, through a partnership with nonprofit Lydia’s House, LNFY has 12 additional beds for emergency and transitional housing, raising its number from six to 18.

“Our partnership with Park Ave Baptist Church could not have come at a more critical time,” said Ernest Walker, whose responsibilities include full time management of all client programs and services, including the youth center. “Our youth are thriving in our programs – finding jobs, accessing healthcare and regaining their self-esteem – but having access to additional housing will dramatically increase our ability to effect change in their lives.”

For example, LNFY’s drop-in center annually sees a sharp uptick in clients during the cold weather months. With the additional beds, LNFY will now be able to provide onsite emergency housing along with its current offerings of food, clothing, showers, and case management.

“Being able to offer our clients a hot meal, a shower and now a warm bed, all under one roof, will be a game changer,” added Walker.

“This partnership is a major step forward for our organization, and we’re grateful to Park
Avenue’s leadership for believing in our mission,” said Nasheedah Bynes-Muhammad. “We’re also thrilled to be in a community that is welcoming and supportive of the advancement of our work. We can go much further together than we can doing this work alone. There are many brilliant, passionate, hard-working people living under bridges and in tents in Atlanta, and we can’t tap into the full resources of our community until everyone has their basic needs met.”

When LNFY was founded in 2011, it was out of a critical need for an LGBTQ-competent youth shelter and support center in the city. It’s since expanded from its days as an
emergency shelter to now providing comprehensive care that includes a 24-hour crisis hotline, emergency housing, transitional housing and a full-service day shelter, “youth center” that assists with job placement, healthcare, housing and educational opportunities.

Today more than 30 employees make up LNFY, many with long tenures in social services as well as shared experiences with the clients they serve. Muhammad and Walker bring more than 50 years combined of professional experience to the organization, plus a personal connection, since both are part of the LGBTQ community and Bynes-Muhammad was formerly homeless.

While dedicated to serving LGBTQ youth, its doors are open to all youth in need. In 2018 alone, LNFY aided more than 1,000 homeless youth, serving more than 17,000 meals, providing 2,688 nights in warm beds and handing out more than 300 tents, 500 blankets and 300 coats.

LNFY’s service to the community also includes its Lost-N-Found Thrift Store, which provides free clothing to its homeless and at-risk clients, while also using proceeds
from sales to fund other programs and services. The store also serves as the first point of contact for many volunteers, donors and clients.

For more information on LNFY, visit lnfy.org.

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