Houseless and Without Support to College-bound and Purpose-Driven, One Student’s Host Homes Experience

Amanda (left) and Tami (right) when Tami presented Amanda with a certificate of recognition recently. Photo courtesy: North Thurston Public Schools

Submitted by TOGETHER!

Couchsurfing, rapid moving, and sleepovers can be part of the status quo for students living without parents or guardians. These students hustle to coordinate food, shelter, safety, and other essentials like clothing, hygiene supplies, and more. In the face of uncertainty, they focus on survival, with limited bandwidth to plan for their futures. High school students living without a parent or guardian are often without a bed, a peaceful place to sit and decompress or do homework, and sometimes without a roof. Living in survival mode can be exhausting. Education can seem irrelevant. Community connections, whether through school or other avenues, help students connect to a future they dream of, and the stronger the community, the more opportunity these teens have to dream, plan, and grow. Sometimes, building community starts with finding a short-term place to call home.

TOGETHER! Host Homes Program is a short-term housing response that matches students living on their own with hosts and provides proactive case management support to both students and hosts. Amanda Yonker, North Thurston Public Schools (NTPS) Student Navigator, connects students who experience housing instability and houselessness in NTPS with local support and resources, like Host Homes. “Amanda takes a lot of care with assisting students in explaining what Host Homes is and being available for our staff to meet with her and the students to create a warm handoff,” says Tami Mason Lathrop, Host Homes Program Director. One of those students who was referred to the Host Homes Program from NTPS earlier this year has been working closely with both Amanda and Host Homes Program staff.

At the time of the referral, an 18-year-old senior was living apart from her family, trying to figure out where she could stay. Without family support, she was facing the hard reality of choosing between shelter care or sleeping on her friend’s couch. She wasn’t on track to graduate and didn’t think about going to college. Growing up, her family did not encourage higher education. Amanda and Paulie, TOGETHER! Host Homes Lead Case Manager, began regularly meeting with the senior, offering her their listening ears, time, and resources to help her chart her own path forward. Slowly, the student began to identify goals and develop a plan. They matched her with a Host Home, and as the student settled in and as trust was built and reinforced, she became receptive to supports offered. Each step of the way, her and her team worked empathetically to build a foundation and envision a future. The process required a lot of time and trust, and the Senior expressed gratitude and displayed resilience. She noted that she had never felt care, connection, or a foundational relationship with an adult as she had with her Host Homes case manager.

As she worked with Amanda to begin completing college applications, she expressed the desire to become a social worker because of the profound impact Paulie and Amanda had on her. Amanda encouraged her to write about her journey in college applications, helping to edit them and helping her complete her FAFSA application.

“TOGETHER! Host Homes found me a host family to stay with and has supported me in my education, working towards graduating, and college preparation. I’ve seen the work they do and love and respect what they stand for. I now know, more than ever, where my passions lie and have a strong desire to help others by obtaining a degree in social work. I understand how teenagers’ brains work, me being one, and especially understand the importance of having other people in your life to care for and help you when you need it the most. I want to be that person for someone else because I have so valued those people who have been there for me,” writes the student. “My goal is to attend college and learn all that I can in an effort to combat difficult issues like homelessness and support young people while transitioning into the real world,” she continues.

Today this student is truly growing and thriving. Not only is she on track to graduate… she has also been accepted into an undergraduate program to start her on her path to social work, where she looks forward to helping students in need discover autonomy and pursue passion. Today she and the adults supporting her are working on plans to help her pay for the difference between tuition and financial aid offered.

Powerful stories like this one are the result of a strong community of support; impacts like this remind us that building community IS an act of resistance, and we thrive as a community when each of us feels a sense of belonging, support, and wellbeing. We are reminded that the gifts and offerings of each and every one of us are needed, now, more than ever, to change systems and lives. We thank our partners, staff, volunteers, donors, and community at large for the difference your support makes for students like this one.

TOGETHER! Host Homes has seen great success because of volunteer hosts, and students like this one are ready to match with caring adults. Join our growing Host Homes family today or just reach out to learn more. You can make a big difference in a student’s life and form lifelong connections. Ready to learn more? Host Homes Director, Tami Mason Lathrop would love to speak with you. Contact her at (360) 280-3286 or via email at You can also learn more by visiting TOGETHER! online at

Host Homes is generously supported by public and private sources including North Thurston Education Foundation, Building Changes Foundation, Washington State Department of Commerce, Discuren Foundation, City of Lacey, City of Tumwater, and individual donors. Join us with a donation today at, and join us for an informal pub night at Olympia Taproom Tuesday August 8, 5:30 and 7pm to meet our team, hear more stories like this one, and support of Host Homes.

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