The crisis of youth experiencing homelessness is heartbreaking, and it is a situation that is becoming more pronounced. Fortunately, there are a number of new, robust efforts in our region that are looking to change this reality.

As you’ve heard us share before, varying sources, including the latest report from the True Colors Fund, estimate that approximately 40 percent of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ. While the causes for this disproportionate impact are varying and complex, with family rejection being a primary contributor, one group that is most likely to experience homelessness is youth involved in the foster care system.

For youth transitioning out of foster care with no support system, little to no income, or few resources to help them become self-sufficient, navigating homelessness can be particularly challenging and isolating. Some youth are forced to turn to shelters where they are often turned away due to lack of identification, past experience in the juvenile justice system, or because they identify as LGBTQ.

Fortunately, the Seattle YMCA has an idea about how to make a difference.

Nicole Guibertreaux, Director of the YMCA’s Host Home Program, explains that the program provides safe housing for youth experiencing homelessness in King County and increases access to desperately needed resources, support networks, and transitional services.

“Youth might be reluctant to live in a shelter because it forces them to confront their own homelessness, which is a painful experience in its own right. The Host Home Program will allow youth experiencing homelessness—particularly LGBTQ youth and youth of color—to have a safe home, meals, privacy, and a growing support system,” Nicole shares.

This new program has taken inspiration from another successful LGBTQ Host Home Program in Minnesota. However, providing this type of a program requires more than just inspiration.

According to the Minnesota program, the process is both “messy and magical”—though the results have made it clear that it’s been undeniably worth it. Youth are given a vitally important chance to live in a stable, caring environment, raising their chances for success later in life, and hosts have the opportunity to expand their horizons and their hearts by accepting a young person in need into their homes.

In order for at-risk youth or youth currently experiencing homelessness to be eligible for the Host Home Program, they must be 18-24 years old, live in King County, and have a case manager—which the YMCA provides if a young adult does not already have one.

Potential hosts go through a thorough screening process before accepting youth into their homes. Host families must be at least 21 years old, live in King County, and have a private bed available for up to six months. In exchange, each host receives a monthly stipend in order to help meet the needs of the youth placed with them.

Guibertreaux explains that host providers were trained in June with the goal of housing one person by the end of July. The program aims to house fifteen youth by the beginning of 2017.

Various obstacles remain, such as recruiting hosts and increasing engagement with LGBTQ families and in communities of color. Despite these challenges, the Host Home Program has a bright future.

The Host Home Program in Seattle will provide invaluable resources to local youth experiencing homelessness for years to come, and make a tremendous difference to these young people who can now be welcomed into supportive and stable homes. 

Every success story through programs like this brings us one step closer to creating a world where LGBTQ youth never have to experience homelessness.

 If you are interested in becoming a host or if you are a young person who is experiencing homelessness, please contact Nicole Guibertreaux at nguiberteaux@seattleymca.org for more information about the Host Home Program.

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