Creating a Bridge to Shelter
The Host Homes Program is a safe, short-term intervention for young adults who are currently experiencing homelessness for various reasons, including but not limited to family conflict, poverty, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
The goal is to provide a safe, temporary, welcoming space for up to six months where the young person has time to repair their relationships with their self-identified family or make decisions about other housing options with the support of a caring housing case manager. Successful implementations of short-term host homes have generally been volunteer-based programs, with stays lasting from three to six months; however, other successful implementations addressing community needs have existed in the short-term housing system. Providing short-term host homes is a cost-effective and successful model for preventing youth homelessness in many cases.
Looking to become a volunteer host? Apply now.
Are you a young person facing housing instability? Start the application process.
Host homes are an entirely different concept from the foster care system. Firstly, being a host is a lower touch task than being a foster parent. Hosts are not expected to be actively involved in the young person’s case management and housing plan that they are hosting. Hosts (unlike foster parents) provide short-term housing (1 – 6 months only). Hosts are also paid a significantly lower stipend than foster parents. Hosts are not expected to create familial-like structures with the youth they’re hosting and act more like roommates than foster parents (especially since youth are ages 18-21).
Disagreements between hosts and youth can happen (as it does in any living situation of any kind). Case managers and Host Coordinators will work with youth and hosts to navigate conflict and make sure that both parties are equipped with conflict resolution skill sets and resources. Depending on the situation, case managers might mediate a dispute and help ensure a smooth resolution.
Hosts must understand that the youth they’re hosting are youth who have endured a great deal of trauma and obstacles in their lives and that to be trauma-informed, they need to understand that some things that are perceived as behavioral issues might be manifestations of trauma that can be navigated. Case Managers and Host Coordinators (depending on the situation) will work to navigate any problems that arise. Monthly meetings at the host’s home with the host and youth present will help mitigate any issues by ensuring that there is a consistent space to discuss how the living situation has been going and what resources or tools are needed to improve things.
Hosts set their own house rules, and these will look different for different hosts. When young people are reviewing the host applications, they’ll look at these different house rules, and from that, they’ll work with the host coordinator and case manager to identify the best fit. For example, if a young person is a smoker and a host application states they have a zero-tolerance policy for smoking of any kind, that’s probably not the best match on both ends. Both hosts and young people will meet together (with the case manager/host coordinator) and walk through their rules/expectations. Young people will also have expectations for what makes them feel safe at home, and those are equally as important as a hosts’ expectations.
In some instances, the young person and the host may feel comfortable with the young person being on their own while the host is out of town. Respite hosts are also essential to have in a host program. A respite host might be a host who isn’t able to do full-time hosting but can be a host to account for emergencies or a host going out of town, or they might be a host who has (more than one) room available, etc.
Typically at the beginning of the program, we ask that hosts be able to provide three meals a week to youth. Case managers will be working closely with youth throughout their stay to make sure they have groceries, access to food pantries and other community resources, and the relevant life skills to cook, etc. Hosts may contribute more if they have the means and the time to provide more meals or more grocery support. The same thing goes for transportation– case managers will work with youth to make sure they have bus passes or public transportation access to navigate independently. Hosts may provide as much or as little transportation as they’d like based on their schedules and comfort. What is most important is not to promote codependent relationships.