In April 2018, the YouthReach MD survey concluded that there were over 200 “unaccompanied” homeless youth in Frederick County. Those were the reported numbers, with many assuming there were many more unreported.
These youth, many of them age 15-18 and highly vulnerable, are no longer under direct supervision of a parent or legal guardian; lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and do not qualify for or supported in the state’s foster care and the child welfare system.
Homeless youth are disproportionately youth of color and victims of violence, sexual, physical or emotional abuse. They are young people who are on their own at far too young an age.
Homeless youth struggle with numerous issues due to their age. Research and data indicate that youth experiencing homelessness are negatively impacted academically, socially, and emotionally. These effects can last a lifetime.
Currently, there are no housing options available in Frederick County for homeless unaccompanied youth. Typically, their only choice often times is to couch surf or double up with friends or strangers, placing themselves in highly vulnerable situations of sex trafficking, drug use and addiction, depression and other mental health issues, and crime.
SHIP of Frederick County is creating a Host Home program for Frederick County unaccompanied homeless youth. It is our intention to begin the program initially as a pilot in September 2019, and expand the program scope and scale in 2020.
Host Homes, found throughout North America, are an intervention for youth who are currently experiencing homelessness for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to family conflict, poverty, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Host home programs are a cost-effective and successful model for preventing youth homelessness in a wide range of cases and situations. Research and success stories elsewhere demonstrate that homeless youth can benefit greatly from youth-specific interventions in a setting safe from the hazards of street life and instability. Age-appropriate shelter and supportive services are critical to protecting the vulnerability of homeless youth. For these youth, a stable residence with adult supervision is the beginning of addressing larger life shaping issues and gaining stability.
The goal of SHIP’s Host Home program is to provide a safe, supportive environment made available through well-vetted and monitored volunteer host families so that homeless youth can complete their education in their home school district. Youth will also receive support and encouragement via case management, access to community services through SHIP’s New Horizons counseling program, and life skills training and development – with support from the volunteer host family, Frederick County Public Schools, SHIP, and the Frederick community-at-large.