Homelessness is a symptom. While many of us subconsciously associate the experience of homelessness with mental illness or substance abuse disorders, the majority of people actually become homeless due to loss of income, lack of affordable housing, insufficient health care, or some form of domestic violence. Among youth, the most common drivers of homelessness tend to be family problems, running away from or aging out of foster care, and re-entry following involvement with the criminal justice system. Throughout the country there are a growing number of youth-oriented programs working to get kids off of the streets and into school, housing, and jobs.
One such program that caught my attention was the Greater Seattle YMCA’s Host Homes Program, offering youth ages 18-24 safe, short term housing with a caring and supportive host family. The program serves those who are homeless and at-risk of becoming homeless by providing a stable environment for up to six months so the youth can focus on working towards a sustainable and independent lifestyle. The YMCA recruits, screens, and trains host families to provide this invaluable opportunity for homeless youth. This is the type of community oriented solution, based in trust and good will, that will help us to bring vulnerable youth back out of the shadows and onto a path of stabilization.