One in every thirty American children experience homelessness every year! The sad truth is, it doesn’t get easier as they get older. A staggering ten percent of young adults between the ages of 18-24 will be homeless at some point this year. That’s more than 3 million homeless children, teens, and young adults!
Gentry House has historically been a safe haven for children who are experiencing homelessness. For more than two decades, we have provided transitional housing to homeless families with children. Unfortunately, we have seen some of those children return years later as young adults or with families of their own. The cycle of homelessness is perilous. The harshest reality is, despite what people may think, there are children and young adults in our community struggling with homelessness every day.
Approximately 65% of the people living in our transitional living program are under the age of 19. About half of those are teenagers, who are well on their way to adulthood. Can you imagine trying to navigate the perils of being a young adult while living on the streets? It’s why so many homeless teens and young adults turn to a life filled with petty crime, drugs, and even sex-trafficking. It’s why we see so many at-risk teens and young adults grow up to be stuck in a cycle of chronic homelessness and poverty. It’s why we have to find a better way.
This year, Gentry House has launched GroundWork, a new program focused specifically on at-risk teens and young adults. This program is designed to meet the specific and unique needs of people between the ages of 16 and 24 who are dealing with or at risk of homelessness. GroundWork participants are partnered with a coach who helps guide them to good decision making that will put them on a path towards long-term stability and success. Workshops are also provided that focus on things like housing stability, financial wellness, career development, and personal growth. Learning to be an adult is hard enough, our goal is to help these young adults figure it out while taking steps to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty.
In the short time since this program began, we have seen tremendous progress. We have started partnerships that will allow these teens and young adults to connect with education and job training programs at no cost. Thanks to our partnership with MCC Homeless Coalition, we are able to connect these clients to local, temporary housing at OpportUNITY House. We have seen some of our first GroundWork clients take the step out of transitional housing and into safe and stable housing of their own or make the choice to join the military. Others are working on completing high school or choosing a career path.
The vision of Gentry House is to empower residents of Calloway County to overcome the cycle of homelessness. We can think of no better way than to stop the cycle before it starts. Transitional housing is not a requirement of GroundWork. We have clients enrolled in the program who live at home with their family, but have other factors that put them at-risk of homelessness. If you know of a teen or young adult who is at-risk of homelessness, give us a call to find out more about GroundWork. We are also always on the lookout for volunteers to serve as GroundWork mentors or help lead workshops. GroundWork volunteers must be able to pass a background check and participate in ongoing training.
Together, we can fight homelessness in our community. We can end youth homelessness.