People interested in providing host homes for young people met with Jennifer E. (she did not want her last name identified), the Youth Host Home Program Coordinator of the Lakes and Pines Community Action Council, at the Moose Lake United Methodist Church on Wednesday, January 23.
Jennifer explained that the Youth Host Home Program is new in the area.
“We had heard from the schools that young people were couch-hopping,” she told the people at the meeting. “It’s not because they don’t want to follow the rules, it’s more often because the parents are chemically dependent or, in some cases, the kids are left to the grandparents but it’s too much for them. In other cases, the mother is in a relationship where there is domestic violence. In some cases, there are sexuality issues; a parent may be gay or lesbian. The child may not be kicked out but they can’t take the tension. Others are aged out of foster care.”
The Youth Host Home Program finds homes where young people age 16-21 can live while they accomplish goals of finishing school and graduating, finding a job and/or going to college.
“Our program is simply housing,” said Jennifer.
Groups that refer young people to the program are the schools, the county and the churches. The students work though the school counselor, who determines that they are ready.
“We don’t want them to get sober in the program, we want them to be sober before going in,” said Jennifer. “Where there are mental health issues, they have to be in the process of treatment. Kids are not eligible for the program if they resort to physical violence. We don’t want that kind of history.”
The people offering their homes do not have to try to be the young person’s parents.
“They would be role models,” said Jennifer. “Most of the youth have parents. We determine if the young person is ready to come into the program. We also check with the school to see if there are any issues.”
The people providing the homes are expected to provide a room, food and basic needs. Lakes and Pines will provide clothing, if needed.
The hosts will also provide transportation to and from activities that the person is involved in, including AA meetings, if necessary.
Potential hosts have to pass a criminal background check and make sure that they are providing safe housing, such as having working smoke detectors.
The host applicants will be asked if they are comfortable with providing housing for young people that are gay or lesbian or have chemical dependency or mental health issues.
The applicants must also write a letter to the young person but that letter will not be shown to the person if the hosts aren’t comfortable with it.
The hosts are asked to list the expectations of the young person that may be placed in the home, such as the rules of the home, their financial commitment, if they are comfortable with a gay or lesbian youth or if there are race issues. The young people that are placed are from the local area, as much as possible.
Hosts are provided with training.
“We provide ongoing support meetings for host homes,” said Jennifer. “Volunteer hosts identify issues that they have with the kids. I might call once a month and see how it’s going. We expect people that want to be hosts to know how to raise kids.”
The young people in the program are grateful.
“One youth couldn’t imagine that a family would take them in without being compensated in some way,” said Jennifer. “They couldn’t believe the gift. The youth thought that was cool. Lots of young people come out of the foster care system because of the money.”
For more information about the Youth Home Host Program, call Jennifer E. at 1-800-832-6082, ext. 162, or JennyE@lakesandpines.org.