Host Homes Bring Stability to Unhoused Youth

Host homes are a community-based housing solution for unaccompanied youth struggling to finish high school. “Unaccompanied” means that high school-aged youth are living on their own, not with a parent or guardian, and are couch-surfing, staying in a youth shelter, living in a car, or even sleeping outside. The school district is able to provide some supports for these students, but they cannot provide housing. When a student has a safe and stable place to come home to, they can focus on their studies and interests instead of worrying about where they might sleep. 

A host home provider is a volunteer from the community where the student attends school, who can open a room in their home for the student to live while they finish high school.  Second Home, a host home program of Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, has been serving students in Beaverton for 10 years. Earlier this school year, Tigard-Tualatin School District formalized a partnership with Second Home to begin serving students in our area. 

As of mid-May, Tigard-Tualatin School District is aware of 18 unaccompanied students.  While not every student chooses to go into the Second Home program, the goal is to have home providers available for any and all students who do come into the program. The numbers of unaccompanied students are expected to increase in the coming weeks and months.

Home providers in Tigard, Tualatin and neighboring areas are needed to provide a room and meals for unaccompanied students from the district high schools. With this stability and support, Second Home students are able to graduate at a rate of 93%! Students experiencing homelessness in Oregon generally graduate at a rate of 55%. It is amazing what stable housing can do for a young person trying to make it through high school! 

Host homes are not the same as foster homes. Home providers are not legal guardians and are not expected to parent, though home providers and students often develop a mentoring relationship that helps guide and encourage the student. When there is a caring adult in a young person’s life, that relationship often helps the student flourish, allowing them to reach their goals and potential. Many times the special relationship formed lasts long after the time a student lives with a home provider.

Home providers receive training and support from Second Home staff and mediators from the Center for Mediation and Dialogue throughout their participation in the program – before, during and after a student stays with them. Mediators assist the home provider and student in putting together a rental agreement, where the student “pays” rent by staying on track to graduate, remaining drug- and alcohol-free, and participating in mutually agreed upon household chores. These facilitated conversations set up the living arrangement for success.

When the student moves on from the program, they leave with an established rental history, making it easier for them to rent housing in the future. Host homes help break the cycle of homelessness by providing a footing for students to get their high school diploma, establish their rental history, and prevent a pattern of unstable housing that can be difficult to break.

Second Home needs home providers both now and in the future. Precautions are being taken for COVID-19, and staff is prepared to help a home provider get ready to house a student either soon or when physical distancing restrictions are lifted. The preparation process can begin at any time. Anyone interested in learning more about helping youth in our community be safe, stable, supported and achieve high school graduation can contact Amy Brownell, Regional Coordinator for Second Home at [email protected]. 

Please also visit www.emo-secondhome.org.