Can you imagine being a high school student surviving as an unaccompanied youth? There is no parent or guardian in the picture, and most often no permanent housing. TOGETHER! is acutely aware of the alarmingly high number of students in this situation through its active engagement with Tumwater and North Thurston schools. HOST Homes is an emerging program especially for these kids and TOGETHER! wants your support. TOGETHER! is hosting a panel presentation on Thursday May 13 from 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. featuring HOST Homes participants and expert program consultant Kim Rinehardt from Mason County.

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Gaby Hyre, program director, is working side by side with the community and TOGETHER! building a program called HOST Homes to support teens in housing transitions. Photo courtesy: TOGETHER!

“North Thurston has identified 52 students and Tumwater has identified 30 students in this situation,” says Gabriela Hyre, MSW, HOST Homes Program development director. “Host Homes is brand new here. The aim is to intervene before chronic homelessness sets in.” Plans are in place to train people this fall to provide host homes with the target date of placement in early 2022. Seed money was provided by the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound.

The Host Homes program is truly a community-driven effort! The Lacey Rotary Club not only identified a need within the North Thurston School District, but have also been supportive of the yearlong research by Lacey Rotary Club members Margaret Tudor, Ph.D and Yasemin Alptekin, Ph.D, on unaccompanied youth in the North Thurston School District as well as their advisory roles in the development of the county wide Host Homes program. The City of Tumwater and Tumwater School District have also been instrumental in the exploration of the host home model as a community intervention and strategy.

People curious about what is involved in becoming a host home or wanting increased awareness of the concerns are invited to attend the event virtually on May 13. The event will be taped for later viewing as well: watch the video here. 

Gaby and her family are newer to Thurston County. Her energies soar as she strengthens relationships with the many partnerships among local agencies that will support this new program. “I want to be part of the changes and growth that I want to see in my community,” she affirms. “It’s a process.” It takes time get all the pieces of a new program organized and running smoothly.

Host Homes will provide youth-centered case management paired with wrap around support for the youth in addition to help from the schools. Host Homes will promote advocacy on needed issues and connect youth with housing and other supportive services. “We will educate, problem solve and provide referrals,” she adds. A few of the local organizations are Community Youth Services, Family Education Support Services, and Pizza Klatch. “It’s a process.” It takes time get all the pieces of a new program organized and running smoothly.

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TOGETHER! invites you to learn about unaccompanied youth living right here in our community and ways you can make a difference. Photo courtesy: TOGETHER!

Many youth do not receive help, and life’s spiral heads downward. Untreated physical and mental health issues, drug use and violence are parts of a list of daunting challenges. Host Homes is an investment in the future of our youth, our community and the world. Helping young people to avoid chronic homelessness and to treat the issues in their lives is critical to the well-being of all of us.

“It does take a village,” says Gaby about taking care of our community. It’s important to keep raising our awareness of what is going on and effective ways to serve each other.

TOGETHER! has been supporting families and students in our community since 1989.

The Club House runs before and after school programs that offer supplemental learning opportunities that are especially helpful in communities with families living with poverty, homelessness, food insecurity and limited access to extracurricular events. The hands-on, creative dual language (Spanish & English) programming engages students with no cost to them or their families. The Club House operates through the school year and in limited summer programs at Lydia Hawk and Pleasant Glade Elementary Schools and Chinook and Nisqually Middle schools. Students not attending these schools may still be eligible to attend depending on academic and financial needs. The Community Resource Centers in schools provide families and students with hygiene and school supplies, food, clothing items and food. All of TOGETHER!’s programs and initiatives support the belief that all young people deserve health, wellness and success.

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Teenage years ought to be filled with joyful learning and growing rather than experiencing homelessness and undo challenges. Photo courtesy: TOGETHER!

“Community support makes a big difference,” says Gaby. You can grow your awareness, donate or become a HOST Home participant. To learn more follow them on Facebook or visit the TOGETHER! website.

TOGETHER is grateful to community partners for embarking on this collective effort together:

Community Foundation of South Puget Sound
City of Tumwater
Mason County H.O.S.T.
Homeless Prevention and Affordable Housing Coordinator – Thurston County Public Health
Community Youth Services
Family Education Support Services
North Thurston School District
North Thurston Education Foundation
Lacey Rotary Club
Tumwater School District
Tumwater HOPES

Thurston TOGETHER!
1520 Irving St SW Suite A Tumwater
360.280.3286

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