When you think of a homeless teenager, what images come to mind? Perhaps you think of a scruffy kid with ripped jeans and a stained shirt scrounging for food in a dumpster or a kid in an oversized sweatshirt sleeping on a park bench. While both of those examples speak to the experience of some homeless youth, a lot of kids experience homelessness differently.

For example, there are kids who crash on a friend’s couch for a few nights a week, or stay in their car in 9-degree weather, or live with a significant other because they have nowhere else to go. Some homeless youth are straight-A students who spend their free time researching complex math equations. Others may be wrestling with whether they want to pursue a college degree in dental hygiene or marine biology, while also figuring out where they are going to stay at night. The kids in these situations don’t necessarily fit the “mold” of homeless youth, but are still living with the reality of being housing insecure or homeless.

Housing Resources for Youth (HRY) seeks to place homeless teens into host homes in an effort to create a community of support. During this freezing cold time of year, many homeless teens are facing precarious decisions about what they are going to do and where they are going to stay. For teens, the prospect of returning to an abusive home life or sleeping outside is scary and dangerous. At any given time there are around two to three dozen teens who are homeless, or housing insecure, in the greater Brunswick, Bath, and Topsham areas. At HRY, we strive to get our homeless teens off the streets and into safe, community based “Host Homes”.

HRY’s localized approach to providing care to youth inside of our communities has been a foundational goal since 2017. Beyond keeping youth in their community, HRY is also dedicated to meeting each youth where they are, not where we think they should be. The youth in our program are given agency to choose where they go, who they stay with, and what kind of supportive relationships they need. Many of our youth have felt like they’ve had no say in what has happened to them in the past. They appreciate that HRY’s Program works with them personally to establish what a safe, supportive environment looks like for them.

Being housing insecure or homeless comes with a lot of unnecessary stigma, shame and unhelpful assumptions. At HRY we work with our clients to help them feel empowered, cared

for, and safe. We live by our program values of respect for each youth’s dignity and individuality; an appreciation for each youth’s strengths, accomplishments, as well as their struggles; an acceptance of their diverse background, and the impact it has on their emotional and mental development. HRY has a deep commitment to continuous learning and meaningful program development for the youth in our community. We deeply appreciate our growing network of host families and the generous people who support our work.

Established in 2017 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Housing Resources for Youth works in the Brunswick, RUS- 01 and SAD-75 school districts. Our mission is to ensure access to safe and stable housing for homeless and at-risk students, to enable them to complete their high school education, reunify with their families when appropriate, and make successful transitions to post-school life. We pair youths with “Host Home” volunteers who have been vetted through a thorough background screening and provided in-depth training to offer a safe space to our most vulnerable population.

For more information on Housing Resources for Youth’s program, or to find out how to get involved please visit their website: housingresourcesforyouth.org

Madelyn Holm is the program coordinator at Housing Resources for Youth. Giving Voice is a weekly collaboration among four local non-profit service agencies to share information and stories about their work in the community. 

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