Young Adult Program
During FY16, Pacific House served a total of 30 individuals between the ages of 18 and 24. Surveys of homeless populations in CT conducted by the CT Coalition to End Homelessness found that in FY16 there were 1,016 homeless young adults either in shelters or on the “street.”
In addition, a relatively unknown but significant number of homeless young adults remain uncounted as they try to avoid the risks of living on the street by seeking the relatively safe, if unsustainable and disruptive existence of “couch surfing” between the homes of friends. In our experience, we find that the young adult represents one of the most vulnerable shelter sub-populations as most young adults lack the knowledge and skills needed to negotiate the shelter environment and the system of community services available to assist them.
This new program aims to meet the immediate critical needs of homeless young adults throughout the region by enhancing facilities, staffing and programs at Pacific House shelter in Stamford. In its second phase, the program will expand further to include additional services as well as a home for young adults at a separate location.
What Can Be Done
Early service interventions that reduce exposure to the dangers inherent in homelessness and act quickly to connect the young adult with age appropriate services will help build lost self-esteem and increase capacities for self-sufficiency. These interventions reduce risks and the likelihood of long-term homelessness that can result in costly and personally damaging prolonged utilization of remedial services, such as emergency rooms, shelters, subsidized housing or other forms of institutional care.
Unfortunately, our experience with young adult populations finds that few organizations throughout the state that serve homeless populations offer service interventions specifically targeted to the young adult, and lack the necessary program capacities and skills required to address their distinct needs. In addition, we find a rather stark lack of public funding resources devoted to what we believe to be a most urgent community need and a serious gap in the community safety net.
Objectives for Success
- The first objective is to address the immediate needs of the young adult coming to the emergency shelter.
- A second objective is a redesign of the physical space within Pacific House to enhance security and safety for young adults.
- A third objective would involve senior agency staff taking a leadership role in engaging community stakeholders in a process that would foster greater communication and collaboration and encourage the development of age appropriate services and advocacy for this currently under-served population.
This initiative aims to help young adults avoid any extended period of homelessness and the various forms of physical, psychological and emotional damage that all too often come with it. We hope to help homeless youth obtain housing stability as quickly as possible and reduce exposure to the risks of life on the street while connecting them to community services and resources that will build capacities to cope and develop as adults following periods of homelessness. We define success in terms of access to a safe and secure living environment without the potential risks for abuse and social stigma. Success may take the form of reuniting with family or extended family, placement in supported housing or in independent community housing. We also view success in terms of the continuation of age-appropriate activities that foster health and healthy development, i.e. school, employment, social networks, etc.