Screen Shot 2017 08 22 at 10.52.24 AMSpecial Contribution

Liz Hernandezhost homes

Every night there are 550,000 youth and young adults in the U.S. who experience homelessness according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Around the nation people are trying to come up with new ways to end youth homelessness. Host Homes are an innovative “outside the box” housing model. In King County, Mockingbird youth are asking that this model be implemented to make homelessness rare, brief, and a one-time occurrence. On September 15th, members from Mockingbird’s Youth Advocates Ending Homelessness program (YAEH) were able to talk to funders about the Host Homes model they think should be funded.

A host home is when a youth who is experiencing homelessness has the option to live with volunteers from the community. The reason I think host homes are awesome is because some youth never get to experience what a healthy family environment is like, and once they are placed into that supportive host home, their perspective changes — which is not necessarily the case with other housing models. Trust can be built over time, and the youth might develop the confidence to be more productive with achieving their goals.

For over 10 years Avenues for Homeless Youth in Minneapolis has proven that host homes can work safely and effectively. Case management and wrap around services are part of their model and include: mental health care, transportation, after-care (case management after the youth exits the program to independent housing), and most of all youth experience — what it is like to be in a stable and healthy living environment. According to the Avenues for Homeless Youth’s 2012-2013 annual report, 25 youth successfully participated in host homes programs that year. While that is a small number, we don’t think that is a bad thing because small programs can be more responsive to youths’ needs than huge programs, and they are more easily replicated.

YAEH loved this housing model so much that we want to implement a similar model in King County. We proposed taking the concept and adapting it to help youth in King County. We originally proposed a program that would be available to youth and young adults from the ages of 16-25 and would also have the same resources listed above that Avenues for Homeless Youth have.

Since our original presentation, we have learned that there are some important concerns about keeping minors safe in the program. So we now support a model that serves youth 18-25 at first, but we still think kids 16-17 could really benefit once we demonstrate success with a strong pilot program.

At the funders meeting on September 15th we talked to a group of 20 people. Eight people were from Mockingbird and the rest were funders, service providers, or from All Home, formerly known as the King County Committee to End Homelessness. Lamar Campbell and I presented to everyone talking about our idea of host homes, what the pros and cons were, and our ask: that a pilot host home model be funded in King County in 2016. We received very positive reviews amongst the group and we are hopeful that funding will be secured soon.

I believe host homes will be beneficial and create more positive outcomes for homeless youth in King County, and eventually, across the state. Avenues for Homeless Youth has proven that this model works and funders have been buzzing about the promise of host homes. There currently aren’t enough housing options for homeless youth to stabilize themselves, so let’s change that in King County and keep fighting to end youth homelessness.


1 Youth. (n.d.). Retrieved October 8, 2015, from

2 “Avenues for Homeless Youth 2012–2013 Report to the Community.” (2013): n. pag. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.

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We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.