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Programs Addressing Youth Homelessness

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Spring 2022   


Programs Addressing Youth Homelessness


      • The Night Ministry’s housing programs address the complex needs of LGBTQ+, parenting, expectant, foster, and minority youth in a safe and inclusive atmosphere.
      • New Avenues for Youth enables young people to access employment training and academic supports in a flexible, comfortable format that is uniquely tailored for youth representing several intersecting identities.
      • The Night Ministry and New Avenues for Youth require staff training in cultural competency, harm reduction, and trauma-informed care to meet the needs of youth and establish rapport.

The diverse racial, gender, and social circumstances of youth experiencing homelessness require approaches tailored to their unique and often complex needs. Several organizations across the country are addressing these needs by implementing evidence-based solutions to improve the long-term housing stability and emotional well-being of youth.1 The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based nonprofit that operates several housing programs providing outreach, shelter, health care, and social supports to youth in a safe and inclusive environment, with a focus on the needs of parenting and expectant youth; racial minorities; and youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, and the range of other ways people choose to identify (LGBTQ+). New Avenues for Youth, a nonprofit based in Portland, Oregon, works to prevent and mitigate youth homelessness through programs that offer basic needs, housing, counseling, education, skills development, and employment for youth who are aging out of foster care, LGBTQ+, or experiencing sex trafficking. The programs offered at these nonprofit organizations have generated positive outcomes for young people, many of whom have achieved vocational and educational goals and developed the life skills needed for independent living.

The Night Ministry

The Night Ministry began in 1976 through a coalition of Chicago-based congregations and a local minister who supported individuals experiencing homelessness.2 Today, The Night Ministry serves neighborhoods throughout the city, providing homelessness programs and services that include transitional housing and supportive services for youth and young adults whose experience of homelessness is compounded by their gender identity, social background, and race.3

The transitional housing and supportive services offered at The Night Ministry help youth develop the life skills needed to live independently.
The transitional housing and supportive services offered at The Night Ministry help youth develop the life skills needed to live independently. Photo courtesy of The Night Ministry

Estimates on the number of young people who are experiencing homelessness vary based on survey method and agencies’ definition of homelessness.4 The hidden and transitory nature of youth homelessness makes counting youth difficult because they often are not in shelter locations where traditional Point-in-Time (PIT) counts take place.5 The January 2021 PIT count tallied 213 unaccompanied youth in Chicago; of these, approximately 89 percent were living in shelters and the remaining 11 percent were unsheltered outdoors.6 Using the Chicago Homeless Management Information System and the American Community Survey, researchers at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless incorporated data on youth who are staying with others temporarily and determined that 13,966 unaccompanied youth aged 14 to 24 were in the city, 91 percent of whom stayed with others temporarily.7

Youth who are in shelters are referred to The Night Ministry through Chicago’s coordinated entry system.8 Others connect to The Night Ministry through its youth outreach van and Youth Outreach Team (YOT) members, who visit libraries, courthouses, and drop-in centers where young people who are experiencing homelessness may spend time.9 From July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, The Night Ministry served 451 youth, 312 of whom were African-American. One hundred of these African-American youth also identified as LGBTQ+. Overall, 166 youth identified as LGBTQ+, and 92 of them also identified as other people of color. A total of 235 youth identified as other people of color. Among parenting or pregnant youth, 26 were African-American, 4 identified as LGBTQ+, and 3 were foster system alumni.10

Addressing Complex Needs

Betsy Carlson, director of youth programs at The Night Ministry, noted that, for young people, seeing staff who look like them in leadership positions is critical to their growth, and The Night Ministry reflects this conviction through its own staff, who are predominantly African-American and Latino. Carlson added that The Night Ministry is striving to examine “the ways that we can really be an antiracist organization [and make] sure that we have more opportunities for advancement … for people of color in the organization.”11 Recognizing the link between racial disparities and homelessness, Paul Hamann, president and chief executive officer of The Night Ministry, stated that the organization and its leaders have a “moral obligation” to examine how their own positions of privilege have implicitly or explicitly contributed to the racial climate. Staff actively discuss how the organization can adapt its language and work culture to more equitably serve people of color. The Night Ministry sought to improve accommodations for the LGBTQ+ community by allowing youth more flexibility to disclose their gender on intake forms and introducing gender neutral bathrooms to be inclusive of transgender youth.12 In addition, all youth receive a copy of the resident handbook, which explains The Night Ministry’s expectations for respect and tolerance toward youth and staff. Through focus groups and surveys, The Night Ministry involves youth in the design of its programs, which, said Carlson, “forces us to include a fair amount of racial equity because so many of the young people that we serve are people of color.”13

Establishing rapport is a vital component of engaging youth during meetings with case managers and program staff.
Establishing rapport is a vital component of engaging youth during meetings with case managers and program staff. Photo courtesy of The Night Ministry

Young people coming to The Night Ministry may identify various issues linked to their experience of homelessness. Staff members must be dedicated to engaging youth. “We make a point of trying to support cultural competency with our staff, [and] we have trainings that are on quite a number of different issues that are a part of youth facing homelessness,” said Carlson. As part of their foundational training, staff members learn the basics of trauma-informed care, harm reduction, motivational interviewing, restorative justice, and cultural competency for working with LGBTQ+ and minority youth. If young people experience homelessness because of their sexuality or family conflict, the staff work to establish rapport and address their needs.14 Recognizing the prevalence of mental health challenges among youth experiencing homelessness, The Night Ministry partners with Rush University Medical Center to offer clients free behavioral health counseling and psychiatric care.15 Staff must also attend first aid training in mental health and learn skills to promote positive youth development.16

Housing and Services

YOT case managers typically are the first point of contact for young people experiencing homelessness, connecting them to safe housing, education, employment, and resources. In 2020, 114 young adults received case management services through YOT. Other forms of engagement include social media posts as well as phone calls, text messages, and in-person meetings with young people. Peer outreach professionals assist YOT by sharing their personal experiences with other youth.17

The Night Ministry operates an overnight emergency shelter for 21 young adults aged 18 to 24 called The Crib, which opened in 2011 in Boystown, a predominantly LGBTQ+ community in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.18 Now located on the ground floor of The Night Ministry’s new administrative headquarters in Bucktown, The Crib features a multipurpose room for dining, group activities, and recreation as well as a dormitory with beds, gender nonconforming bathrooms, a large kitchen, and a laundry room. The computer lounge, which youth residents named The Vibe, enables them to apply to jobs and access resources.19 In keeping with The Crib’s emphasis on ensuring representation of the LGBTQ+ community, some staff members are transgender, creating a welcoming and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ youth.20 The Crib also participates in a shelter bed reservation system through a smartphone app called StreetLight Chicago, which allows youth experiencing homelessness to reserve a bed. In 2020, The Crib served 246 young adults with a total stay of 5,357 nights.21

The Response-Ability Pregnant and Parenting Program (RAPPP) began in 2007 as the only shelter program in Chicago that reserved beds for expectant and parenting mothers as young as age 14. The program aimed to improve the physical and emotional health of clients and their children and develop self-sufficiency through education, access to public benefits, life skills, and onsite support groups. RAPPP received funding from the Basic Center Program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which meant minors could stay in the program for up to 21 days. Additional funding from general operating funds allowed RAPPP to serve young adults over age 18, many of whom already lived in the building.22 In fiscal year 2020, RAPPP served 60 pregnant and parenting youth and 35 of their children. Among clients exiting RAPPP in 2020, 74 percent transitioned to safer and more stable housing.23

Located at The Crib, The Vibe has computers and internet access so that youth can find employment and pursue education.
Located at The Crib, The Vibe has computers and internet access so that youth can find employment and pursue education. Photo courtesy of The Night Ministry

Over time, according to Carlson, the age of RAPPP clients began to shift from younger to older teens.24 In response to this change, The Night Ministry received $250,000 in Maternity Group Homes for Pregnant and Parenting Youth funding from HHS in fiscal year 2021.25 Eligible clients for this funding are at least age 16, and participating teens can stay in the shelter for up to 21 months and transition to permanent housing once they exit. As Carlson explained, “[A] lot of times, people would move from [the Basic Center Program] into a transitional housing program … with another agency,” so the updated model for RAPPP allows teens more continuity of care and better long-term stability as they transition to permanent housing. In fall 2021, staff solicited ideas from program alumni and current clients, who voted for a new name for the program: Parenting with Purpose.26

Parenting with Purpose remains an eight-bed program, and, as of December 2021, plans are underway within another facility to create individual bedrooms to provide private space for family units. Because program surveys revealed that respondents prefer more privacy, converting the shelter’s design from communal to more independent space will become increasingly important as clients stay for longer periods.27

Expectant and parenting youth under 16 do not qualify for Parenting with Purpose, so The Night Ministry serves this group through its Interim Housing Program, which is a short-term housing program for youth aged 14 through 21 and their children. Although the Interim Housing Program does not focus on pregnant and parenting youth, it can accommodate their needs and is designed to help youth return to their families or find safe housing. A total of $85,808 in HUD Continuum of Care (CoC) grants and $199,350 in HHS Basic Center Program funds supported the Interim Housing Program in fiscal year 2021.28

Launched in 2006 at The Night Ministry’s Open Door Shelter in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, the Successful Transitions Effectively Preparing for Self-Sufficiency (STEPS) program provided up to 2 years of transitional housing and life skills coaching for eight young adults aged 18 to 22. Designed as a stepping-stone toward independent living, the program was also open to expectant mothers or parenting youth with infants or toddlers. In fiscal year 2020, a total of 19 young adults and 3 of their children participated in STEPS and stayed a total of 2,586 nights. All residents who transitioned to permanent housing remained housed 90 days after leaving the program. In fiscal year 2020, nearly 90 percent of STEPS participants indicated that they met someone in the program they could rely on for support after exiting.29 Although STEPS was only an eight-bed program, Carlson noted that its impact was significant for those who were housed.30

In December 2021, The Night Ministry merged STEPS with Phoenix Hall — a year-round residence in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood for local high school students experiencing homelessness or housing instability — to form a hybrid housing program called Pathways.31 This merger was a response to the changing demographics and needs of youth enrolled in both programs. Some people referred to STEPS through the city of Chicago’s coordinated entry system would decline to participate because they did not want to live in a congregate setting.32

The Night Ministry created Phoenix Hall in 2017 based on feedback from staff at North Lawndale College Prep High School, who indicated that some students needed housing services; yet, as Carlson noted, The Night Ministry could not fill all beds in the program because fewer clients than anticipated who needed assistance were still enrolled in high school.33 By removing the educational requirement, Pathways lowers barriers to entry and opens services to more young people in need. Pathways now uses the former Phoenix Hall as the main house for residents, which has dormitory-like elements with bedrooms and communal living, dining, and study space for up to eight people, four of whom must be referred through the city’s coordinated entry system; the other four receive HHS funding, and resident referrals can come from several sources. Four additional beds in two nearby apartment units also receive coordinated entry referrals. These apartments are ideal for those who desire more independence but want the option to return to the main house for group activities. The Night Ministry made these changes in response to youth input collected during quarterly surveys and house meetings. As with STEPS, Pathways provides housing and supportive services for up to 2 years. The program received a $148,133 HUD CoC grant in fiscal year 2021, and the city of Chicago’s coordinated entry system refers young people to the program. The Pathways program’s hybrid living arrangements help young people access services that adapt to their needs at their current stage in life.34

The teenage years and young adulthood are a critical time for developing independence and self-awareness, and The Night Ministry’s programs honor youth voices. Encouraging youth to be confident public speakers is one aspect of the Youth 4 Truth leadership development program.35 Young people who are current or former participants in The Night Ministry programs can apply to participate in a 10-week cohort that collectively decides on a goal or issue to tackle, such as career advancement, youth advocacy, voting rights, or food insecurity.36 Mia Sostrin, a Youth 4 Truth participant, said that the program has boosted their confidence in public speaking, especially when conducting group meetings.37 Program participants relate their experiences at public events with other community organizations, and some have even testified before the state legislature on their concerns about finding employment, the effects of eviction, and the need for mobile mental health services for youth experiencing homelessness.38

Youth 4 Truth participants also engage in community service projects such as preparing meals to distribute to clients who visit the health outreach bus. Sostrin explained that Youth 4 Truth has helped them improve their interview skills and gave them both a voice in business meetings at The Night Ministry and the opportunity to learn from outside organizations.39 This program gives young people a space to be heard, and their input informs programs and policymaking.

Robinswood is a safe haven where hard-to-house foster youth can receive clinical case management and shelter.
Robinswood is a safe haven where hard-to-house foster youth can receive clinical case management and shelter. Photo courtesy of New Avenues for Youth

Overcoming Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic forced staff to modify program operations without sacrificing vital services. With the issuance of Illinois’ shelter in place order, The Crib began 24-hour operations to shelter more than 160 youth over several months. Case management and behavioral health services shifted to phone and virtual platforms, and youth took part in socially distant recreational activities. Staff regularly checked in with youth to assess their needs, especially those who had exited the program and needed help accessing stimulus payments and unemployment benefits. Staff delivered groceries to program alumni and their families who had lost their jobs or were unable to leave home because of health or transportation challenges.40

Carlson acknowledged that balancing the needs of youth within the constraints of different funding streams can be complicated. For example, a client enrolled in the Interim Housing Program would not necessarily be able to move into the more independent community apartments at Pathways since the units are HUD funded and require a referral from the city’s coordinated entry system. Participants enrolled in Parenting with Purpose do not need a referral from Chicago’s coordinated entry system because HHS funds the program; however, if walk-ins have not filled the beds in the Parenting with Purpose program, staff members can contact the city’s coordinated entry system to identify young people who are parenting or pregnant. Furthermore, although there tends to be more permanent supportive housing units than transitional housing beds, few youth qualify for permanent supportive housing unless they have a disabling condition. Articulating these concerns to policymakers within the context of a much larger system, Carlson suggested, is vital to ensuring that youth have access to adequate housing options.41

Addressing Youth Homelessness in Portland, Oregon

New Avenues for Youth emerged in 1997 to serve young people experiencing homelessness in Portland and Multnomah County in Oregon. Since its launch, the organization has supported more than 30,000 youth who disproportionately are people of color and who identify as LGBTQ+.42 Although the January 2019 PIT count for Multnomah County, including the city of Portland, only tallied seven unaccompanied minors, the actual number likely is considerably higher because many youth are hesitant to participate and because PIT counts reflect only a single night rather than a longer period.43 The homeless youth system in Multnomah County serves roughly 1,000 youth per year; 2021 data indicate that 30 percent of those served identify as LGBTQ+, 46 percent of whom are also black, indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC). Multnomah County officials estimate that approximately 2,000 county youth are experiencing homelessness, but this number increases when including youth who are unsafely housed, such as those involved in sex trafficking or who are couch surfing or doubled up.44

New Avenues for Youth is one of four agencies participating in the Multnomah County Homeless Youth Continuum (HYC), a unified system offering support and services to youth through an integrated network and streamlined screening process. Through HYC, New Avenues for Youth conducts street outreach and receives referrals from the child welfare, juvenile justice, school, and other community systems.45 New Avenues for Youth serves approximately 1,200 to 1,400 youth annually across its programs. Currently, 61 percent of New Avenues for Youth clients are BIPOC, and 42 percent of the organization’s African-American clients also identify as LGBTQ+.46

Serving Intersectional Identities

The nonprofit runs several onsite and community-based programs that offer short-term housing to specific populations along with evidence-based approaches such as trauma-informed care, harm reduction, and positive youth development. The larger transitional housing program is based in a 26-bed congregate care program, but New Avenues for Youth also operates smaller-scale transitional housing programs such as New Meadows, which targets youth aging out of foster care, including parenting youth.47 The New Meadows program at the Dorothy Lemelson House serves youth aged 17 to 24 who are transitioning out of foster care; it provides 10 studio apartments for residents without children and 4 one-bedroom apartments for residents with children. New Avenues for Youth operates the facility in partnership with local nonprofit Bridge Meadows, which develops intergenerational living communities for foster care alumni, adoptive parents, and seniors.48 To help youth increase their self-sufficiency, New Meadows residents pay a small fee toward their rent. Although this payment increases marginally over time, it remains considerably below the market rate for rent in the area. “[The modest fee] is mostly token [and] designed to get youth acclimated to budgeting and paying bills,” noted Sean Suib, executive director of New Avenues for Youth. To ensure that no one loses housing because of an inability to pay, New Avenues for Youth uses private funds to finance program fees for youth who may not have an income or qualify for a housing subsidy.49

Another New Avenues for Youth transitional housing program, Unity House, launched in 2015 as Oregon’s first housing program for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness. Unity House builds on the LGBTQ+ services offered through New Avenues for Youth’s Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC). Within its first year, Unity House became home to 5 residents and had 15 youth on its waiting list.50 New Avenues for Youth strives to keep youth voices at the center of its work and benefited from bringing SMYRC into the fold in 2015.51 Suib noted that SMYRC has a longstanding practice of engaging a youth steering committee when implementing different services.52 SMYRC offers social gatherings, support groups, case management, education, and behavioral health counseling with a mental health specialist for LGBTQ+ youth aged 13 to 23. In addition, SMYRC provides a food pantry, clothing closet, and personal hygiene products to youth in need.53 In the 2020–2021 program year, 138 youth accessed services at SMYRC.54

In the 2020–2021 program year, New Avenues for Youth housed 170 youth across all of its housing programs, with 96 percent of residents who exited its onsite transitional housing program during the year moving to stable housing.55 According to Suib, New Avenues for Youth considers these programs as “transition to launch” with a focus on preparing young people for greater self-sufficiency.56

Youth who are welcomed by staff who share their gender and racial identities feel safe, understood, and heard, which is particularly helpful for those working with hard-to-place foster youth. Faced with full psychiatric beds and a state child welfare system so overwhelmed that it was diverting children to hotels, New Avenues for Youth opened Robinswood in September 2017 as a shelter offering supportive services for hard-to-place foster youth aged 9 to 20. Approximately 45 percent of staff members identify as people of color and 24 percent are LGBTQ+, making them particularly suited for establishing rapport.57 Youth are assigned to a clinical case manager who uses a trauma-informed approach to guide them toward their educational, vocational, and independent living goals.58 From 2017 to 2019, Robinswood stabilized and placed more than 250 youth in trauma-informed foster homes or reunited them with families.59

New Avenues for Youth also connects young people to various subsidized housing options, including permanent supportive housing for those with disabilities or those who meet the criteria for chronic homelessness; rapid rehousing; and housing choice vouchers allocated under HUD’s Foster Youth to Independence program for youth alumni of the foster care system.60 From 2019 to 2020, New Avenues for Youth made 217 housing placements and interventions across its programs.61 Suib emphasized that “it really is about trying to braid these different funding [sources] together, so it’s not just [about] what we have available for a young person, but what is the best fit for a young person’s need.”62

Meeting Youth Where They Are

New Avenues for Youth’s combination of housing services, case management, and career development programs helped Nitara Brown, a former New Avenues for Youth participant, become more self-sufficient. Brown learned time management, financial literacy, and life skills such as “managing a home and keeping a home tid[y].” She diligently used her time in the programs to identify different avenues for success and learned how to make that success a reality. As case managers and program staff worked with Brown, she began to take the initiative and seize available opportunities to achieve her goals — qualities that should prove useful in her current career at a customer service and business technology company. Brown earned a certificate in small business management and public relations, and she is currently working toward a certificate in business law. Brown said that a critical component of her success was maintaining an “insightful, reliable plan,” which does not need to be detailed but should be something that “a person can stick to and not compromise on that is realistic and easy enough to be followed through [to] completion.” The team at New Avenues for Youth supported Brown as she navigated challenges and helped her keep her goals — developing independence, finishing school, and finding employment — in perspective.63

New Avenues for Youth determined that the number of hours devoted to case management — an indicator of youth engagement — is a significant predictor of a positive outcome. To eliminate barriers to engagement, the organization tailors its programs to the individual needs of youth. According to Suib, “[F]or some youth, employment services may best be accessed through our career training center, [while] for a youth who’s experienced sexual exploitation or trafficking, it may look like a specialized cohort, a job readiness class provided in a confidential setting. Some youth may opt to come to our alternative education center, [while other] youth may need mobile education support that can be brought directly to them in [the] community. By braiding our programming, we try to allow for this kind of flexibility.”64

New Avenues for Youth offers its clients a continuum of options that form the backbone of its work.65 The organization owns and operates two social purpose enterprises that offer youth paid, hands-on work experience and mentorship. Young people gain customer service and business skills working at the Ben and Jerry’s PartnerShop in downtown Portland. Opened in 2013, New Avenues INK teaches youth screen printing while also building their marketing, business, and graphic design skills.66 These social purpose enterprises provided 78 jobs and internships in the 2019–2020 program year and generated more than $374,000 in revenue for the organization.67

New Avenues for Youth also offers an Independent Living Program (ILP) for youth transitioning out of the foster care system. In addition to connecting youth to job training and placement services, New Avenues for Youth’s ILP, the largest of its kind in the state, provides mental health, bilingual, and culturally specific LGBTQ+ supports for youth as well as services to help youth access postsecondary education.68 As an immigrant and a war refugee, Zahra Malikshah, an ILP participant, entered the foster care system at 15 and never thought that they would have an opportunity to attend college. Zahra connected with New Avenues for Youth as a high school student and received support from ILP life skills coaches, who helped them develop basic real-world skills, apply to college, and finance college tuition and books. As an ILP participant, Zahra established a supportive community composed of mentors, coaches, and other foster youth. “Nobody ever taught me how to take care of myself,” said Zahra. “I took a money management class with New Avenues as well and have had great job opportunities, help finding housing and resources during COVID, and … free legal help.” Zahra credits New Avenues for Youth with creating a “sense of belonging” for youth, which made them feel as though they were never alone despite being the only member of their family living in the United States. Now a first-generation college student, Zahra said that, ultimately, New Avenues for Youth “taught me how to advocate for myself when I need to and to authentically be myself.”69

Continuity of Service Delivery

Suib noted that when a service does not exist in the community, New Avenues for Youth devises creative ways to fill those gaps.70 One example of the organization’s flexibility and responsiveness to community needs is its plan to develop a culturally responsive transitional housing model as part of the New Day program, which offers safety planning, wraparound case management, mentorship, and skill-building services for youth aged 12 to 25 who have experienced or are at risk of sex trafficking.71 New Day operates in partnership with Call to Safety, Raphael House, and Self Enhancement, Inc. — local nonprofit service providers offering shelter, medical care, counseling, 24/7 crisis support, and academic resources to victims of domestic violence, children, and youth.72 Along with several other agencies, Call to Safety, Raphael House, and New Avenues for Youth are part of the Multnomah County Sex Trafficking Collaborative, which allows individuals and service providers to share information and fill gaps to better assist victims and at-risk individuals.73 New Avenues for Youth refers clients needing support to Call to Safety’s 24/7 crisis hotline.74 In the 2020–2021 program year, 71 percent of young people in New Day were BIPOC, and 61 percent identified as LGBTQ+.75 More than 200 youth used New Day’s services from 2020 to 2021.76

 Youth gain paid work experience at the New Avenues INK screen printing shop, where they also learn how to advertise the items they make.
Youth gain paid work experience at the New Avenues INK screen printing shop, where they
also learn how to advertise the items they make. Photo courtesy of New Avenues for Youth

In response to recent social movements to raise Americans’ consciousness of the nation’s long history of systemic racism, New Avenues for Youth has created an agency equity plan and activities to create more inclusive environments for youth and staff. Equity-based values are embedded in the organization’s hiring practices, program design, and operations. Managers participate in training and leadership development sessions led by the director of equity and inclusion that focus on racial consciousness. In addition, the organization has implemented a resiliency fund to advance the professional development of its BIPOC staff. Youth often are invited to attend board meetings to offer insights and hear updates.77

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic required New Avenues for Youth staff to adjust operations to continue to meet clients’ needs. Among these adjustments has been the increased use of a mobile outreach van with private meeting space where young people can receive mental health counseling, harm reduction resources, and other services.78 While the organization’s Drop-In Day Services Center in downtown Portland traditionally serves meals inside, social distancing guidelines limited the number of people who could be inside so the Center provided food to go from its kitchen. The Drop-In Center also extended its hours and referred youth for COVID-19 testing. New Avenues for Youth programs pivoted to small, socially distanced meetings and check-ins by phone or online video for case management and career coaching. The transitional housing programs hired onsite bilingual staff to support students who were learning remotely. Case managers and career coaches delivered food, supplies, work clothes, bus passes, and laptops to ensure that youth could continue to meet their vocational and educational goals.79 Suib noted that the organization had to maintain these operations while paying close attention to the needs of staff, who experienced burnout and risked coronavirus exposure while delivering services.80

 New Avenues for Youth operates a Ben and Jerry’s shop where young people gain customer service skills in addition to paid work experience.
New Avenues for Youth operates a Ben and Jerry’s shop where young people gain customer
service skills in addition to paid work experience. Photo courtesy of New Avenues for Youth

Beyond the challenges of the pandemic, New Avenues for Youth is grappling with broader livability challenges in a city that is increasingly unaffordable, which is contributing to housing instability among young people. “We’re trying to [keep] people from becoming homeless and [help them] exit homelessness in a city that’s becoming … harder and harder to afford,” said Suib. The organization has had to pool resources and advocate for additional public funding so that staff can receive fair wages that keep up with the cost of living. Often, the need to remain compliant with complex regulations to receive public funding detracts from the organization’s central focus of helping young people. “It’s very hard to build a systemic response when every few years the ground could be pulled out or the resources could be [revoked],” Suib said. Critical to building a long-term, sustainable response, Suib said, is finding the ideal “mix of public-private dollars to scale impact but not lose innovation and flexibility.”81


The various housing and service programs offered at The Night Ministry and New Avenues for Youth can be tailored to meet the distinct needs of youth with intersecting identities and experiences. Case managers at The Night Ministry, Carlson said, address “the issues that a young person identifies for themselves,” and New Avenues for Youth ensures that its services are flexible and creative to account for each client’s individual needs.82 Both organizations consider participation in intensive case management services while enrolled in housing programs vital to success. Because their clients have varying needs, the agencies evaluate their impact at the individual level. One participant may need legal services to prevent an eviction, while another may need behavioral health support to instill lifelong coping skills, yet both services positively influence participants’ long-term outcomes.83

Providers that are receptive to youth input can adjust services based on feedback — flexibility that is critical to addressing youth homelessness. Along with youth input, staff training sessions help ensure that programs and policies remain racially equitable and inclusive. The programs offered at these organizations help youth experiencing homelessness realize their voice in decisionmaking and ultimately serve as springboards to selfsufficiency.

Related Information

Supporting Vulnerable Youth Through Philanthropy

Non-Time-Limited Housing for LGBTQ+ Young Adults

  1. Matthew H. Morton, Shannon Kugley, Richard Epstein, and Anne Farrell. 2019. "Missed opportunities: Evidence on interventions for addressing youth homelessness," Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, 10–2.
  2. The Night Ministry. "About The Night Ministry" ( Accessed 28 January 2022.
  3. The Night Ministry. "Get Assistance" ( Accessed 28 January 2022.
  4. Interview with Betsy Carlson, 24 November 2021.
  5. Voices of Youth Count. 2017. "Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America," Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, 5–6.
  6. Chicago Department of Family and Support Services and the University of Illinois at Chicago. 2021. "City of Chicago 2021 Homeless Point-in-Time Count & Survey Report," 10.
  7. David Mendieta and Samuel Carlson. 2021. "Estimate of Homeless People in Chicago (2015-19)," Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, 1; 5.
  8. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  9. The Night Ministry. 2020a. "The Youth Outreach Team and The Crib."
  10. Email correspondence from Betsy Carlson, 3 January 2022 and 4 January 2022.
  11. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  12. The Night Ministry. 2021. "The Night Ministry in 2021: A Live Q/A with President & CEO Paul W. Hamann."
  13. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  14. Ibid; National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families. 2020. "Get to Know a Grantee: The Night Ministry."
  15. National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families 2020.
  16. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  17. The Night Ministry 2020a.
  18. Ibid; Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  19. Interview with Betsy Carlson; The Night Ministry. 2020. "The Crib Overnight Shelter Has a New Home," 14 July Blog post.
  20. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  21. The Night Ministry 2020a.
  22. Interview with Betsy Carlson; The Night Ministry. 2020b. "Response-Ability Pregnant and Parenting Program (RAPPP)"; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. 2021. "Basic Center Program"; The Night Ministry and Subsidiary. 2021. "Schedule of Expenditures of Federal Awards," Document provided by Betsy Carlson, 3 January 2022.
  23. The Night Ministry 2020b.
  24. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  25. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2021. "FYSB Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Maternity Group Homes for Pregnant and Parenting Youth (MGH) Program, FY2021"; Email correspondence from Betsy Carlson 3 January 2021.
  26. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid; The Night Ministry. "Housing" ( Accessed 14 December 2021; The Night Ministry and Subsidiary 2021.
  29. The Night Ministry. 2020. "STEPS Transitional Living Program"; The Night Ministry. 2021. "Celebrating 45 Years: West Town Facility Enhances and Expands Services for Homeless Youth," 31 August Blog post.
  30. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  31. The Night Ministry. 2021a. "Youth Programs to Offer More Flexible Long-Term Housing Solutions," 2 December Blog post; The Night Ministry. 2020c. "Phoenix Hall."
  32. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  33. Ibid; The Night Ministry 2020c.
  34. Interview with Betsy Carlson; The Night Ministry 2021a; The Night Ministry and Subsidiary 2021.
  35. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  36. The Night Ministry. 2020d. "Youth 4 Truth Elevates Youth Voices at The Night Ministry and Beyond." 29 June Blog post.
  37. Email correspondence from Mia Sostrin, 6 January 2022.
  38. The Night Ministry 2020d; Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  39. Email correspondence from Mia Sostrin, 6 January 2022.
  40. National Clearinghouse on Homeless Youth and Families 2020.
  41. Interview with Betsy Carlson.
  42. New Avenues for Youth. 2020. "2019-20 Annual Report," 4; Interview with Sean Suib, 6 December 2021.
  43. City of Portland, Home Forward, A Home for Everyone, Multnomah County, City of Gresham, Tiffany Renée Conklin, Cameron Mulder, Portland State University Regional Research Institute. 2019. "2019 Point-In-Time: Count of Homelessness for Portland/Gresham/Multnomah County, Oregon," 27; 29.
  44. Interview with Sean Suib.
  45. Multnomah County. 2021. "Homeless Youth Continuum ServicePoint Handbook," 1; Multnomah County. n.d. "Multnomah County Homeless Youth Continuum (HYC) Overview," 1.
  46. Interview with Sean Suib.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Carlton Hart Architecture. "Dorothy Lemelson House" ( Accessed 26 January 2022; Bridge Meadows. "About Us" ( Accessed 22 October 2021.
  49. Email correspondence from Sean Suib, 9 February 2022.
  50. Casey Parks. 2019. "New Avenues for Youth opens city's first housing program for LGBTQ homeless youth," The Oregonian, 9 January; Email correspondence with Sean Suib, 18 February 2022.
  51. Interview with Sean Suib; New Avenues for Youth. 2018. "2015 – SMYRC becomes a program of New Avenues for Youth," Facebook post. Accessed 7 December 2021.
  52. Interview with Sean Suib.
  53. New Avenues for Youth. "Sexual & Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC)" ( Accessed 7 December 2021.
  54. New Avenues for Youth. "Our Services" ( Accessed 26 January 2022.
  55. Email correspondence with Sean Suib, 5 January 2022; New Avenues for Youth, "Our Services."
  56. Interview with Sean Suib.
  57. Tabitha Jensen. 2019. "Senate Bill 137 Testimony"; Steve Duin. 2019. "A Minor Miracle: Finally, Some Good News About Oregon's Troubled Foster Care," Willamette Week, 11 December; New Avenues for Youth, "Our Services."
  58. New Avenues for Youth. "Robinswood" (newavenues. org/robinswood). Accessed 22 October 2021.
  59. Jensen; Duin.
  60. Interview with Sean Suib.
  61. Email correspondence with Sean Suib, 18 February 2022.
  62. Interview with Sean Suib.
  63. Email correspondence with Nitara Brown, 15 December 2021.
  64. Interview with Sean Suib.
  65. Ibid.
  66. New Avenues for Youth. "Job Training & Employment" ( Accessed 26 January 2022; New Avenues for Youth. 2018. "2013 - New Avenues INK Opens," Facebook post. Accessed 7 December 2021.
  67. New Avenues for Youth 2020, 15–6.
  68. New Avenues for Youth. "PDX-Connect" ( Accessed 21 October 2021.
  69. Email correspondence with Zahra Malikshah, 27 December 2021 and 28 December 2021.
  70. Interview with Sean Suib.
  71. Email correspondence with Sean Suib, 5 January 2022.
  72. New Avenues for Youth. "Services for Youth Experiencing Sex Trafficking or Exploitation" ( Accessed 25 March 2022; Call to Safety. "Resources" ( Accessed 25 March 2022; Social Enhancement Inc. "Youth Services" ( Accessed 25 March 2022; Raphael House. "Our Services" ( Accessed 25 March 2022.
  73. Multnomah County. 2018. "Sex Trafficking Network Meeting Minutes."
  74. New Avenues for Youth, "Services for Youth Experiencing Sex Trafficking or Exploitation."
  75. Interview with Sean Suib.
  76. New Avenues for Youth, "Our Services."
  77. New Avenues for Youth. "New Avenues for Youth Equity Statement" ( Accessed 26 January 2022; Interview with Sean Suib.
  78. Interview with Sean Suib.
  79. New Avenues for Youth 2020, 6–9.
  80. Interview with Sean Suib.
  81. Ibid.
  82. Interview with Betsy Carlson; Interview with Sean Suib.
  83. Interview with Sean Suib.


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