On the heels of the startling news that homelessness in Los Angeles County has risen 12 percent over the last year, the Los Angeles LGBT Center is doing its part to curb the crisis by launching Host Homes, a new program in which youth experiencing homelessness are sheltered in local private homes.
The Center currently is seeking a diverse pool of residents who are interested in opening up their homes for short periods of time to youth. The short-term arrangement will typically last 3– 6 months with the youth receiving intensive transition services at the home and the Center during that time, and assistance in finding permanent housing.
“Often our young people are rejected from a lot of different services—and from their own families,” said the Center’s Associate Director of Youth Services Kevin McCloskey. “This is an opportunity for someone who’s willing to provide a youth with an opportunity to come into their home, appreciate who they are, and just support them.”
The Center serves approximately 300 youth experiencing homelessness per month, but beds for emergency and temporary shelter are limited. Many are on a waiting list for shelter and, in the meantime, come to the Youth Center for meals, showers, clothing, laundry, and various programs and services. On any given night in Los Angeles, there are 6,000 homeless youth surviving on the streets—a staggering 40 percent of them identifying as LGBT.
“We have to be thinking of new, innovative, creative ways to address this problem,” said McCloskey. “We want to replicate a chosen community and a chosen family for the young people.”
The Center’s goal is to match 10–15 young people within the first year of the program, which is funded by the Los Angeles Housing Services Authority. Similar programs have been established by other organizations in Minneapolis, Atlanta, and San Francisco. The first Host Homes piloted in Southern California occurred at Safe Place for Youth in Venice.
“It allows for the community to really come together and bridge the gap between the street and permanent housing for these young people,” explains Host Homes Program Coordinator Angela Pacheco.
Potential hosts must be over the age of 30 and have a private room available for the young person, who will be between the ages of 18 and 24. Hosts also must have homeowners or renters insurance and undergo a background check, a home inspection, interview process, and training before they can qualify to be matched with a youth.
Host Homes staff will meet with the youth to obtain input regarding the type of host, the location of the home, and the support they need to thrive. In the end, both the youth and the host enter into a contract covering basic house rules and boundaries.
According to McCloskey, the ideal guest recognizes it is a short-term situation and will take advantage of the opportunity to find employment, pursue education, and gain independence.
“Being in a host home gives you the space to think about how you are going to propel your life forward,” said McKloskey. “The youth will realize they’re not on their journey alone.”
Pacheco hopes the initial hosts who come on board will cause a ripple effect and inspire others to open up their homes.
“Hosts are actively participating in a solution to homelessness,” she said. “Rather than just talking about the issue and being frustrated that no one in the city is doing anything, hosts themselves are actually getting involved and creating positive results to one young person at a time.”
Residents who are interested in becoming potential hosts are invited to attend an eight-hour training session on Saturday, July 27, at The Village at Ed Gould Plaza located at 1125 N. McCadden Place in Hollywood.
To register for the training or to obtain more information about Host Homes, please contact [email protected] or 323-993-8984.