March 10, 2022
Youth and young adults who are facing housing instability need support. Currently, the community’s only immediate support option for young people experiencing housing instability is a referral to a shelter. Cuyahoga County data shows that more than one-third of those referred to shelters never follow up.
Many young people disengage from the system entirely because they feel unsafe, unwelcome, and disrespected in a system not designed for them. Young people need services, not shelter referrals. We can do better for young people in our community.
We need a center that meets young people where they are.
A Place 4 Me, the community’s initiative to prevent and end youth homelessness, has partnered with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, young adult leaders, local funders and service providers to introduce a youth drop-in center, where young people seeking housing stability can find respite. The center, the first of its kind in Cuyahoga County, is targeted to open in 2022.
The experiences at the drop-in center are specific to the needs of youth and young adults. Young people who have lived through periods of homelessness have designed the center’s services, resources, and overall atmosphere.
Visiting a drop-in center feels like stopping at a library or a café. Young people are welcomed at the door and invited to explore at their leisure or with staff support. A guest will find many amenities, including a fully stocked kitchen, restroom & shower facilities, open common space with comfortable furnishings, communal tables, books, games, TVs, WIFI, and plenty of outlets for charging devices.
There are offices for staff, including peer navigators who have lived through experiences of housing instability and case managers from community agencies. There are computers and resources for job searching, connecting to services, or browsing the internet. Young people may do laundry. The center hosts regular support groups and programming to practice wellness, creative expression, and try new skills.
Young people striving for housing stability are more than twice as likely to use drop-in centers than shelters.
Young people utilizing services within drop-in centers demonstrated improved social-emotional well-being and sustained connections to services, critical elements on the path to stable housing.
The Youth Drop-In Center will operate with five core values, as named by the REACH youth action board:
- Youth leadership & partnership
- Racial & LGBTQ equity
- A highly relational service model
- Low-barrier access
The development of the Youth Drop-In Center is endorsed and supported by core partners of A Place 4 Me:
- REACH Youth Action Board
- YWCA Greater Cleveland
- EDEN, Inc.
- FrontLine Service
- Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry
- Cuyahoga County Office of Homeless Services
- Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services
- Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland
- Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative
- Ohio Healthy Transitions Project