Housing Resources for Youth — our organization’s name doesn’t say much about the specifics of what we do day-to-day. It’s discrete, and a little cryptic. The name doesn’t show the complex and beautiful relationships between homeless youth and their host home providers. It leaves out the long conversations about school work, friends, or the latest music trends. It leaves out the meals eaten together, or the movie nights spent on the couch. Yes, Housing Resources for Youth connects youth to “housing resources,” but it’s so much more.

The first host Housing Resources for Youth worked with was Caroline Russell. As others have beautifully written about, Caroline was a force to be reckoned with. She worked with numerous organizations in the Midcoast area. Caroline was a dedicated board member of Housing Resources for Youth and hosted two at-risk youth through our program.

In April of 2020, right after the start of the pandemic, Caroline opened her house to a youth she had known for years. The two of them had a close relationship through Big Brothers Big Sisters. Caroline knew, like many of our hosts know, she was in a position where she could provide something fundamental for a youth in need. A room of their own. Five months later Caroline was asked to take in a second youth in need; she rose to the challenge and opened her doors again.

For each of them, Caroline was an important member of their chosen family. She cooked her famous pot roast and froze it in individual portion sizes. There was always something home-cooked for them to eat. She gave them advice on college plans, investing opportunities, and how to buy a car. But maybe most importantly, she watched as each of them slowly gained confidence, and grew as individuals.

Caroline was the fullest embodiment of what it means to be a Host Home Provider. She wasn’t a parent, but she provided love, care and support. She wasn’t a boarding house, but she gave the youth at her home their own autonomy. She also wasn’t a therapist or caseworker, but she did help them solve problems, listened when they needed support and hugged them when life got hard.

Being a Host Home Provider is a unique opportunity to work with a youth in a vulnerable time in their life. Caroline shaped the Housing Resources for Youth program, and for all her dedication to the youth in our community we are eternally grateful. It is individuals like her, and the rest of our hosts that make our program what it is each day. If you are interested to learn more about how you can become a host in the Midcoast region please visit our website www.housingforyouth.com

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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