New Brief Shares Tips From Rural Service Providers

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Photograph of a rural landscape.

We’ve often heard people who work with homeless youth in rural areas talk about the particular challenges their young people face. These teens travel dozens of miles to get to school, to health clinics, to social service agencies. Often, there’s no youth shelter within hundreds of miles.

There’s also a dearth of information about what providers are doing, and can do, to help. To start to fill the gap, the National Alliance to End Homelessness surveyed rural youth programs and then surveyed them again, asking about two common strategies: host homes and outreach. The results and some recommendations are described in the Alliance’s brief, “Housing and Outreach Strategies For Rural Youth: Best Practices From the Rural Youth Survey.”

The brief also profiles two rural youth programs, Youth Advocates of Sitka, in Alaska, and Sea Haven for Youth in North Myrtle Beach, SC.

Here’s our summary of some of the document’s most interesting points about host homes and rural outreach to homeless youth:

Host Homes

In the host home model, youth live temporarily with members of the community while receiving services. Host homes can serve as emergency shelters or as longer-term housing for youth in transitional living programs.

The Alliance asked service providers to share their experiences recruiting people willing to share their homes. Highlights include:

  • Recruiting hosts who might share characteristics or experiences with youth, including people who have interacted with the child welfare, foster care or juvenile justice systems or those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.
  • Collecting testimonies from youth who had positive experiences with their host families and families who enjoyed hosting a youth.
  • Inviting host families to staff trainings to build relationships and strengthen communication.

Outreach

Survey respondents also explained ways they had reached out to youth in areas where they are often spread out or have few places to hang out:

  • Putting up posters in schools and handing out materials at school sporting events.
  • Advertising on television, radio and public buses.
  • Asking local car dealers to offer reliable, low-cost vehicles to program participants to deal with the difficulty youth have getting from place to place.
  • Establishing a Safe Place network by getting local libraries, community centers or fire stations involved in outreach to youth.
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