With seed funding of $20,000 from [give] 502’s annual giving circle grant, the Coalition for the Homeless and the Home of the Innocents plan to introduce a transitional home hosting program modeled after Avenues for Homeless Youth in Minneapolis and Nightstop in England.

The new program is called Host Homes Pilot Project to End Youth Homelessness and is a component of the coalition’s initiative to end young adult homelessness in Louisville by 2020, organizers say. The coalition said over a full year, there were about 450 homeless adults 18-24 in Louisville. This fall, 112 young adults were housed in a 100-day challenge.

“We are very excited about this collaboration and project,” said Shannon Derrick, of the Home of the Innocents, in a recent email exchange.

“Only by investing in the youth of today can we make real change in the future of our community,” said Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, during the recent announcement. “It is a big task that needs many hands and hearts, and Host Homes is a model where many can contribute to our future.”

The organizers have consulted the Louisville Youth Group, which was formed in 1990 to provide a safe place for LGBTQ youth to be free to be themselves, for input.

Derrick said they planned to hire a coordinator in January and create a policy for the project, recruit volunteer hosts and train them.

Hosts will have to go through background checks and training and will need to be able to provide a private place for the young adult to sleep and food, Derrick said. Once hosts are set up, the initiative will begin to place young adults experiencing homelessness.

For its 2017 grant, [give] 502 selected the pilot host homes project. | Courtesy Community Foundation of Louisville

This is the fourth grant awarded since [give] 502 was founded in 2013.

“It seems like every year our grant seems to go to topical issues,” said Daniel Mudd, chair of [give] 502, in an interview. “Last year, it was Americana [World Community Center], and the issues with refugees. This year, especially with the homeless issue for young adults, 18 to 24, Host Homes will really help.”

The giving circle of young professionals, which is considered a component fund of the Community Foundation of Louisville, has awarded $80,000 in total, Mudd said. Participants donate $502 each year.

“It’s incredible to see nearly 40 young professionals come together for such a wonderful cause each year – it just shows you how thoughtful, giving and powerful millennials can be through collective giving,” Mudd said during the announcement. “We can’t wait to continue to work with the Coalition this year to help get this program off the ground.”

Derrick said that “host homes are similar to foster homes, but addresses the two complaints youth most often have about foster care. One, the host are volunteers, so it takes away the young adults’ beliefs that the host is only doing it because they are paid to have them stay. Two, the young adult gets to select the family they stay with so they are the one to get to make the decision instead of it being made for them.”

She said the young adults would be linked with a case manager while in the host home to help them work on a plan for stable housing once they leave the host home. “Young adults voice will be key to the process,” Derrick said.

Nightstop, which describes itself as a lifeline to young people in crisis, opened in Leeds in 1987 and has grown to a network of 33 locations in the United Kingdom, according to its site. In 2016, Nightstop said its 610 volunteer homes helped provide 12,134 nights of safety to over 1,390 young people.

Avenues for Homeless Youth, formerly Project Foundation, open its doors in December 1994 and provided 10 beds for over 200 youth in its first year. After a few setbacks, including the loss of a government grant, the organization evolved into three hosting programs, according to Ryan Berg, program manager of one of them.

The programs are the GLBT Host Home Program, which provides transitional, longer-term housing for youth who identify as LGBTQ, the ConneQT Host Home Program, which provides more emergency-based and shorter-term housing for LGBTQ youth, and the Minneapolis & Suburban Host Home Program, which provides housing for homeless youth from the metro area and suburbs of Hennepin County regardless of their LGBTQ identification.

“All of these programs have a commitment to being informed by a philosophy of solidarity, not charity; we believe that communities can thrive when we share our resources from the perspective of ‘us and us’ and not ‘us and them,’ ” Berg said in an email exchange.

Each host home program in the Avenues for Homeless Youth system works with 10 youth at a time so that case managers can work intensively on youth goals, Berg said. Leaders try to recruit five new hosts per program per year. “Host recruitment can be very challenging.” Berg said.

The GLBT host home program has been around for 20 years and is a nationally recognized model, Berg said, adding that the hosting programs work because they are community-based and volunteer-driven.

“Hosting is an act of solidarity and members of the community recognize that they must act to address youth homelessness within their own communities.” Berg said. “Because we function outside the system, the work is really about relationships, listening to what youth say they want, and meeting youth where they’re at both physically and emotionally. Host Home has the power to be transformative, not only for the youth and the hosts, but for communities, by extension.”