LOWELL — More than 150 city officials, non-profit leaders and educators gathered at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center Monday to continue their assault on a troubling issue: Youth homelessness.

“We’re growing and we know we really wanted to set a stage for what the next 12 months are going to bring,” said Carl Howell, Community Teamwork division director for housing and homeless services.

So far this year, 124 young people have accessed CTI’s supportive services — and that number continues to grow, CTI Director of Youth Services Amanda Mallardo said. But it’s hard to tell just how many young people in the city are struggling with homelessness, she said. Some kids may couch surf, or sleep in cars, she explained.

Last year, CTI held the first summit to create a plan and establish momentum to address youth homelessness. Now, the nonprofit has five programs to support young adults struggling with homelessness, and is looking to expand, Howell said.

Mayor William Samaras, Senator Ed Kennedy, City Manager Eileen Donoghue and Lowell Public Schools Superintendent Joel Boyd were among other speakers at the event.

Donoghue said the city formed a task force earlier this year, focused primarily on single adult homelessness. One of the task force’s recommendations, she said, is shifting to a housing first plan, in which homeless individuals are provided a place to live first, along with other supportive services that continue over time.

“I think with youth what appears to happen is sometimes those individuals and kids are below the radar,” Donoghue said. “I think we need to do a better job of outreach…” she said, to serve teens who may be couch surfing, or living in temporary housing situations.

“The City Council fully supports the efforts and recommendations of the task force. We are grateful to Karen Frederick and Community Teamwork for bringing this issue to the forefront and providing quality services to address it… We must bring hope to these young adults at risk because hope really does matters,” Donoghue said in the release.

“CTI is especially thankful for the partnerships established with the educational partners in the community: Lowell High School, Middlesex Community College and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. This collaboration has secured housing supports for students that allow them to focus on their
education and not on where they will sleep that night,” said CTI CEO Karen Frederick in the release.

“I think it’s important to really just bring back the focus on what we’re doing, that these resources exist. It also provides a platform for the youth, the young adults, to share their experiences,” Howell said of the summit.