A shocking number of high school students find themselves without a safe place to live or an adult concerned with their well-being.
In 2016, approximately 500 high school students in Fairfax County Public Schools were identified by their teachers and administrators as being homeless and without the support of a parent or guardian. And those are just the ones we know about. Even more young people live in marginal living situations or have parents who are homeless. We help homeless youth turn their narrative around and write their second story.
The situation for homeless youth can be scary and traumatizing. Many have parents who themselves are homeless or are unable to make ends meet. Many come from unstable homes where abuse or addiction issues knock them off of their feet. Still others deal with temporary financial hardship that makes it impossible to pay for housing.
These young people may work long hours to pay for food and rent. They may stay with a sexual partner out of necessity, not love. They may be forced to sleep far away from their school district and unable to easily travel to school. As teenagers, they may also face shame, ridicule, self-esteem issues or other mental health challenges as a result of all of the turmoil. Any of these problems can make it seem impossible to finish high school.
Second Story for Homeless Youth helps homeless high school students and youth with housing and case management so that they can get to their graduation day. In a typical year, more than 80 percent of the young people in our program are able to meet their employment goals and almost 90 percent meet their education goals. Using a combination of host homes, rental assistance, and rapid re-housing, the program housed 41 young people and offered case management to 55 young people in 2016. Of our high school seniors, 100 percent graduated in 2016.
The program helps young people transition through host homes and rent assistance. Host homes, provided by families and community members in a stable living situation, provide a sense of consistency to a young person’s life. Young people who are transitioning to independence must work or go to school at least 30 hours a week and create a savings account so that they can live independently once they graduate from the program. Rapid re-housing is a prevention program to help young people in danger of becoming homeless, who must move quickly into a new situation.
All of the youth participating in Second Story for Homeless Youth receive housing and community support. Many of them are placed in private host homes, and many are offered small rent subsidies to help them rent rooms in the community. All youth are provided with case management services, individual therapy, life skills education, tutoring, and assistance with emergency food and supplies.