Oklahoma City program pairs homeless youth with temporary homes while they plan for the future

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Transitioning to adulthood can be hard. It’s even harder when you don’t have a support system to show you the way. That’s where Host Homes comes in… A program that pairs homeless youth with a volunteer to give them a stable living environment while they work towards independence.

Youth homelessness comes in many forms: living on the street, in shelters or moving from couch to couch.

“The numbers don’t always reflect what’s actually there,” said Andru Dallaly, project manager for runaway and homeless youth services at the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “But the numbers exist in the school systems. I think the most recent study was over 2,000 students reported some form of homelessness.”

Shelters, doing their best to help, but coming up short on space.

“There is a wait list. We stay full,” said Chandy Rice, director of community engagement at Pivot. “We stay at capacity, even pre-covid were at capacity.”

Host Homes helps alleviate that.

Volunteers, opening up their homes to help young people who are nearly ready to be out on their own- they just need some time to prepare.

“Youth that are already making progress, that are already working on goals and working toward that stability that they need,” said James Caves, executive director at Sisu Youth Services.

Rachel Bradley, a volunteer host, compares the experience to being a big sister, from offering guidance to teaching them how to cook.

“It’s almost like a bridge into adulthood,” said Bradley. “It gives an opportunity for the youth to live semi-independently, learn those soft skills, learn some life skills that maybe they don’t have the opportunity to learn in a shelter.”

Although the experience is short term, usually up to six months, the impact can be lifelong. Giving someone a chance to help themselves, by giving them a safe place to lay their head.

Volunteers with Host Homes offer a private bedroom in their home to a homeless youth for up to six months. The youth range in age from 15-17 to 18-24. This temporary arrangement allows the youth an opportunity to plan for their future, whether that be preparing for a job, saving money to get a place of their own or working towards other goals they may have.

Hosts are carefully vetted by ODMHSAS and trained by their support team to ensure the pairing is a good match.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, email Andru Dallaly at Lahcen.dallaly@odmhsas.org.

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