Host Homes Housing One Youth at a Time


Submitted by TOGETHER!

With warming weather, we take in the sights, sounds, and scents of the spring season. We relish in the increased daylight and find a renewed lightness in our hearts and steps. Whether spring prompts you to find delight in the beauty of flowers or gives you renewed energy for spring cleaning, it is a time of celebration, change, and reflection.

As we reflect on the return of light and renewal of energy, it weighs heavily on our hearts to know 1,265 students in Thurston County schools are homeless (according to 2023 Thurston County Point in Time Homeless Census Report as of January 2023).

Moved by love and our shared values of equity, community, and systems change, together we help bridge this gap through our Host Homes program, providing safe, short-term community based hosted homes for students not living with their parent or guardian.

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 can focus on their studies without worrying about where they will sleep at night.

Host Homes By The Numbers

60 youth/families ever contacted

 21 youth ever housed

 7 youth graduated high school

3 attending college

(10) students currently housed (or enrolled if that provides us with a more expansive number)

(2) students are waiting for a match

(5) new student applications are being reviewed and will officially enroll soon!

Host Homes in a Season of Growth and Change

After serving as Host Homes Director for more than a year and a half, it was bittersweet to celebrate Tami Lathrop’s transition to serve as Program Officer with The Community Foundation of South Puget Sound. Tami’s work on launching Host Homes and helping us to house the first students will leave a forever mark in our hearts. Thank you, Tami!

In the spirit of spring and joy-filled new beginnings, we are beyond excited to announce Vanessa Hurst as our new Host Homes Director. Vanessa joined TOGETHER! in early 2023, serving as a Community Schools Case Manager at Cascadia High School until accepting this new role. Congratulations, Vanessa! Read on to hear what Vanessa has to say about why she made the transition, and what’s on the horizon for Host Homes.

Meet Vanessa, In Her Own Words

What made you want to be the director for Host Homes?

“Case management and direct client service have long-since had my heart. There is nothing quite as rewarding as tackling barriers with families and youth to arrive at positive outcomes, especially having my own lived experience with many of the same circumstances. Over the past year, I have been able to combine direct service with program development by building the Community Schools Program at a local alternative high school from the ground-up. There I was able to find great professional and personal satisfaction in spearheading that program, having the opportunity to work with many complex cases and unaccompanied youth (and incredible school staff!) These experiences brought me into the folds of our Host Homes program, where I saw the growth and development on a much larger scale being led by my predecessor, Tami. Tami and the Host Homes team set a profound example of this work, and I knew I could bring a wealth of experience and visionary growth to Host Homes, a program that checks all the boxes of the changes I hope to bring to Thurston County youth. When the opportunity arose, it made perfect sense to bring the Community Schools model deeper into the work of Host Homes. I am thrilled to have had great leaders and mentors within TOGETHER! to help make my directorship possible.”

Any other updates we can share with readers?

“Host Homes is growing! Our pilot year was incredibly successful and helped identify program strengths; we have seen what works and what doesn’t. What I am most excited about is that we are genuinely youth-led… We hear what the youth need to succeed by their own design and how we can help them be the most successful in our program. We also understand the deep need for host-family support in fostering strong relationships as well as hosts who are confident in leading a youth into young adulthood.”

“Paulie Schreck has accepted the position as our Host Homes Program Manager! Many of you know Paulie as our Lead Case Manager, and we are thrilled that she will continue with our program in this new position. As the Program Manager, Paulie will manage our volunteer Hosts and train new Case Managers.  Kayla West is now a full-time Case Manager. Sonny Garcia is our newest team member, serving as Program Assistant/Outreach Coordinator within the Host Homes program.”

How Can Our Community Help Host Homes?

“We need more Host Families! It is a BIG ask, and many people are curious and have many questions. Perhaps they are not sure who to ask or where to direct their questions, or perhaps they’re not sure if their questions are valid… and we welcome all inquiries! Systemic change in ending young-adult homelessness and increasing positive experiences for young people starts with the spark that calls us to help. Additionally, we are always and graciously accepting donations for our youth and the host families. Financial donations and specific program donations are encouraged as well.”

Hopes for 2024?

As we carry Spring’s spirit of renewal and growth in our hearts, we have much excitement for the promise 2024 holds. Together, we will continue to shine light on opportunities to advance equity, build a community where all belong and are safe, and change systems together to create a just world here in our home communities.  

“We hope to make Host Homes a household name in Thurston County. We want youth, families and community service providers to think of Host Homes and all we offer when thinking of the ‘go-to’ providers. We will also be spreading the word, creating very clear definitions of what our program is to Thurston County schools, non-profits and community organizations. If you’d like Host Homes to present for your organization, please contact our Program Outreach Coordinator, Sonny Garcia.”

Host Homes is one of three core programs of TOGETHER!. Since 1989, TOGETHER! has been on a mission to advance the health and wellbeing of all young people. Today, their three core programs also include Community Schools wraparound supports and case management, and Club House bilingual extended day and summer programming. Their programs and operations are an extension of their values of equity, community, and systems change. TOGETHER!’s work is poised at the cutting edge of public health science and educational justice, strategically working to achieve a vision that all young people are supported, safe and valued. To learn more or support TOGETHER!, visit the TOGETHER! website, or follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

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