Submitted by TOGETHER!
Being homeless can be a difficult situation for any high school student. For a lot of teens, houselessness might not look like you’d think. Many teens in our community living apart from their parent or guardian are couch surfing, or temporarily living with a friend or relative, yet still attending classes at their high school. Host Homes offers an opportunity for these students to have a safe, secure place to live, and the support they need to help them work towards achieving goals that matter to them, including finishing their high school education and beyond. So, who are these students, and why do they need help with housing?
“These are students who are seeking out the support of this program because they are connected to their school and community,” Host Homes Director Tami Mason Lathrop shares. “They have goals, and some have extracurricular activities or jobs.” One thing that’s unique about this approach is the fact that students enrolled are there by choice. Minors in the program have parent/guardian permission, and parents never lose any parental rights. Another thing that makes this model unique is the level of support provided. Both students and hosts receive supports and case management to help ensure they are set up for success.
But this program is only possible through the community’s support, including the critical role of volunteer hosts. Host are individuals or families willing to open their homes and provide temporary housing. In some cases, families do this unofficially, letting their teen’s friend stay with them. What many people don’t know is Host Homes is ready to help support families and students in these circumstances, where there is already an established connection, as well as ready to match students without this built in network of support. Another thing that comes as a surprise to many is the fact that school district employees CAN participate in Host Homes. Host Homes partner districts North Thurston Public Schools and Tumwater School District have both said it is ok for district employees to use vetted resources like TOGETHER! Host Homes, complete with its risk management and RCW compliance, to access the resources and benefits of the program to host young people. So, what support can Host Homes provide?
Once a student is enrolled in the program, they build a relationship with a case manager while they wait to be matched with a host. “We get to know the student, what they are worried about, what they might need help communicating, etc.” Lathrop says. “We want the student to have agency and know how to advocate and ask for what they need to achieve their goals,” she continues. Sometimes this means helping a student get an ID, set up a bank account, or identify volunteer or job opportunities as well as assisting with resume building. Case managers can also check health care benefits or connect students to new health insurance coverage if needed, help students get to important health appointments, and more. But hosted students aren’t the only ones receiving support. So, what kind of support is available for Hosts?
Hosts also have a dedicated case manager, too, and they get access to training on key topics to help set the match up for success. We also provide support with a wide range of things to help ensure the student and family have what they need, including helping to cover costs for the student to participate in school activities, get their bedroom set up, and a plethora of other resources for the student placed in their home.
What’s it like to host, you might be wondering? On a recent podcast appearance available on YouTube and Spotify, current Host Homes hosts Dave and Annette reflect on their experience and remark they wished they had the kind of resources TOGETHER! offers Hosts when they were parenting their own kids. Host Dave shared “TOGETHER! is a great resource.” For anyone thinking of hosting, Dave shared “It’s ok to be apprehensive.” “TOGETHER! gives you a lot of support,” he said.
Host Homes provides invaluable support to homeless high school students, helping them to write their own story of a brighter future. With the support of the Host family, these students are able to focus on their studies without worrying about where they will sleep at night. We are currently seeking hosts, including kinship matches and people already providing support to a young person in their lives. Visit us online at watogether.org or reach out Host Homes Director Tami Lathrop today to learn more at 360.280.3286 or HostHomes@WAtogether.org.