Young adults experience homelessness for a variety of reasons and need individualized support to exit homelessness. This belief has been at the core of YouthCare’s continuum of care for homeless youth and young adults since our founding in 1974. We are excited to introduce a new set of tools to help some young people end their housing crisis permanently without entering the homeless housing system (for example, placement in shelter or a transitional living program). These tools form the Young Adult Diversion Program, funded by the Raikes Foundation and managed by YouthCare in partnership with Auburn Youth Resources, Friends of Youth, New Horizons, and the YMCA.

Beginning in September 2016, staff at these five provider organizations in King County will receive skill development training to help them engage young people in identifying viable alternatives to entering the homeless housing system. For example, a young person may have a job that provides enough income to pay monthly rent but not have the up-front move-in costs. Another young person may have a safe and stable family member to live with if they could help support additional utility costs with a small monthly stipend. These kinds of creative solutions build on a young person’s strengths and existing network, and help them remain connected to a community of caring adults.

Once the youth and staff identify a viable solution, the Young Adult Diversion program provides the necessary financial support to implement the solution. Staff will also refer the young person to other resources, such as job training, mental health counseling, or case management as needed. Eventually, the training program will grow to encompass a suite of workshops focused on core competencies and best practices for people working with homeless youth across our region.

Young Adult Diversion doesn’t replace the need for a range of housing options designed to meet the unique circumstances of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. Instead, it helps to quickly identify those youth who would benefit from a little support to end their experience of homelessness, while ensuring that those youth who need longer-term or more supportive environments can access shelter and housing options that will help them end their experience of homelessness. We are thrilled to launch this new program and grateful to the support of the Raikes Foundation and our agency partners.