How Housing and Homelessness Services Surround Young People with Care

Last updated: November 8, 2023, at 9:12 a.m. PT

Originally published: November 3, 2023, at 10:13 a.m. PT

young man smiling

Every young person comes to the Y Social Impact Center with a unique background, life experience, and challenges, and with that comes unique solutions. Besides offering young people safe housing, our goal is to surround youth with care through various wraparound services that interrupt trauma and prevent future homelessness. We've gathered some truly transformational stories from our youth who have started on their path to reaching their full potential. (All names have been changed to protect privacy).

Sustainable Housing Security 

Meet James – one of the many young people whose life was transformed. Before coming to our Arcadia emergency shelter in Auburn, James was sleeping in his car without a reliable source of food or shelter. He began to show up to Arcadia daily for resources, utilizing the emergency shelter as a place to stay for the night, connecting with employment services, and securing a hot meal. While at Arcadia, James learned about our Rapid Rehousing program, and our shelter staff referred him in hopes of gaining support in accessing permanent, independent housing. In just one week of joining Rapid Rehousing, James was approved for his first 1-bedroom apartment. Since moving in, James has been able to get a stable job and pay rent both consistently and on time, something not easy for a young adult who has never rented before. With a permanent roof over his head and the ongoing support of the shelter staff, who provide resources and community connections, James is obtaining his flaggers certificate. He would eventually like to go into construction. "It's been a privilege to work with James," shared Y staff, "he only needed a boost to really thrive and start achieving his goals."   

Removing Housing Barriers and Critical Needs 

Surrounding our youth with holistic care goes a long way. For Trinity, it meant her son could receive proper care. Her young son had been newly diagnosed with epilepsy, and it was hard for her to provide him with the appropriate care while experiencing homelessness, let alone sustain employment. Trinity was constantly chasing her next immediate need to provide for her family – work, food, shelter, and child care – each one fighting for attention and a critical need. She came to our housing program with a series of lost jobs in her wake. Once safely housed and with a few months of rental support, she had connected with other Y services, which helped provide resources for caregiving for a child with special needs and access to reliable childcare. Accessing these resources made it possible for her to get a full-time job, and she is looking at being able to leave the program after only a short time of rental assistance and guidance toward tailored services to meet Trinity's and her son's needs. She is pleased to say that she is almost ready to "graduate" from the housing program because she is proud to be providing for her family on her own.      

Housing Stability for Youth in Courts 

Young people come to the Y through different means with different needs. For Freddy, he just needed someone to not give up on him. Freddy first came to the Y Social Impact Center because of his past detentions in the juvenile court system. He was matched with a case manager and initially, Freddy would respond to the staff's texts and phone messages. After a month, Freddy turned 18. He was forced to leave his home and couch surf with friends. He stopped responding to staff and became somewhat of a challenge to reach out to. The staff was about stop contacting him but decided to reach out one last time. 

Freddy finally answered. The time he spent on his own seemingly motivated him to make some serious changes in his life. They talked about goal setting and how he could focus on positioning himself toward starting to make those changes. After pondering this for a while, Freddy blurted out, "Auto body mechanic! I would like to enroll in Bates Technical College's Auto Body program and graduate." His case manager saw how sincere his interest was and wanted to encourage it. They helped him schedule a meeting with a college counselor to meet and learn what was going to be required to graduate. With his case manager's support, Freddy filled out the financial assistance application, which resulted in him receiving financial support to attend the fall quarter.    

A Safe Place to Learn 

Victor came to the YMCA needing a safe place to stay – and a place to learn. A super smart young man, he immigrated from Bulgaria and came to our emergency shelter shortly after his seventeenth birthday. Due to his immigration process, he hadn’t been in school for a few years but he was steadfast in his goal to go to college for AI engineering. The one semester in the U.S. school system wasn't challenging enough. He dropped out of high school and started studying for his GED. While at the shelter, staff created journal prompts to have him practice his written English and push his social/emotional learning. Reading his journal prompts with him every day was one of the staff's favorite tasks. Their favorite prompt they asked Victor was: "What would you do if there was no gravity for a day?" Victor went into detail about the science behind how gravity holds everything together. The staff was expecting an answer like "see how far I can fly" or "drop things to watch them not fall." Victor's answer demonstrated the way he approaches thinking, his answer showed his ability to look at things from a unique perspective. With the support of our shelter staff, Victor was able to utilize that skill, thrive academically, and develop his creative thinking. This young man is now enrolled in college and well on his way to a successful tech career. 

The Impact and Necessity of Wraparound Services 

All of these stories are different and took different resources, but one thing was the same – adults who care about them – from the skilled staff who come alongside youth to Y supporters and businesses that help make the resources available through generous gifts. Whether that support helps with a few months' rent, navigating rental applications, graduating, or finding a job, our housing and homelessness staff play crucial roles in supporting young people and preventing future homelessness. Surrounding young people with care is essential, but we've found that we only play a small part. We are there to support them with a range of resources, but they make the choice to succeed. Sometimes, it just takes one person who cares enough to take the time to see and encourage the inner strength that they already have within them.