The population of homeless, unaccompanied youth is growing across the country, including right here in our own community. With few stable, on-going housing options for homeless youth available, the current reality for most of this population is often referred to as couch surfing. This means the youth – some with babies of their own – will stay with somebody informally until he or she is not welcome anymore. The youth move from place to place only becoming more vulnerable and at-risk each day.
With help from the La Crosse Community Foundation and the Johns Flaherty Collins – Michael Stoker Fund, FCC aims to lead a community-driven effort to develop a better, more stable solution for this population based on a housing-first model. For these youth, a stable residence with supportive, adult supervision is the beginning of addressing larger life shaping issues. Homeless youth need youth-specific interventions including assistance with meeting basic needs like housing and food as a gateway to other needed services like independent living skills training, employment opportunities and access to mental health services.
The program will recruit, screen and train adult volunteers to be host homes, then match homeless youth with those volunteer host homes so that the youth may continue to live, attend school, and work within their respective community. The host home experience will give youth the time, space and support to stabilize, address immediate needs and work on their personal goals to make a more positive transition into young adulthood.
Interested in becoming a host home? Call Kristen Kingery at (608) 785-0001 ext. 350 to learn more. Host home volunteers must be at least 21 years of age, have their own stable income, have a residence with an extra bedroom, and pass a screening process including reference and background checks. Host home volunteers are provided 16 hours of initial training, plus receive on-going support from the program’s social worker.