Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project

The Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP) Overview

The Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, an affiliation of community agencies, state and city divisions, recently applied for our city to be one of HUD’s chosen YHDP sites, with Covenant House Alaska serving as the lead agency. Out of 130 applicant cities, Anchorage was one of only ten selected. As each YHDP site carries out its plan, HUD will observe which strategies work best in an effort to effect meaningful change nationwide.

Among the roster of experts involved in the creation of the Community Plan to End Youth Homelessness, we relied heavily on the knowledge of those who have actually been there: the Youth Task Force from the Covenant House Alaska. It is made up of a diverse group of youth and young adults, the majority of whom have experienced homelessness. They are the ones who can best inform us about the factors that lead to homeless.

With their insight and help, we’ve targeted the most critical areas needing support, and identified the young people who are most affected:

  • Youth who identify as LGBTQ
  • Pregnant/parenting mothers
  • Victims of trafficking and/or domestic violence
  • Youth who have been involved with the child protection, foster care and juvenile justice systems and who may have specific behavioral health and/or substance abuse needs

We are now actively engaged in four strategic projects designed to support these youth groups. Each of them was identified as a missing service that amounted to gaping cracks through which, despite our best efforts, we were losing young people. In pursuit of eliminating these gaps, youth providers around Anchorage have come together in a big way. They’re forging connections and making plans that far exceed what we’ll be able to get done only through the YHDP. We’ve learned where we each fit as a pavestone in the road to success and safety.

We, and our community partners, feel energized and hopeful. If we do this right, we have the chance to make a significant difference for our youth who experience homelessness. Realistically, we won’t eliminate homelessness entirely, but we can make it a rare, brief, one time occurrence.

YHDP Strategic Project Summaries

Host Homes:

Less formal than traditional foster homes, in the Host Home Project youth actively participate in the decision process for which host family is best for them. Frequently, the youth we serve come to us because the foster care they were in was untenable. Allowing them more choice in their living situation means a great deal. According to one member of our Youth Task Force, “Good people don’t come around very often, so if you ever find that family you’ve been praying for, you want to be able to stay.”

Permanent Supportive Housing:

This project is focused on youth with more serious needs, such as mental health issues or substance abuse. There are no unrealistic time limits, and on-site case management support is provided. Currently, all beds of this type in Anchorage are reserved for chronically homeless adults, leaving our most vulnerable young people without the right options.

Rapid Re-Housing for Young Adults:

Targeted toward youth ages 18-24, the Rapid Re-Housing approach quickly houses youth in actual home settings instead of in shelters. It helps them build support networks and resiliency, and includes temporary rental assistance as needed.

Permanency Navigator Team:

Young people repeatedly express to us the frustration and trauma of being shuffled between case managers when they move from one system, organization or program to another. When a positive relationship is established with a vulnerable young person, the loss of that relationship can set progress back. In this project, a Permanency Navigator is assigned to assist a youth as they move through housing, programs and systems with the consistency they need from a supportive adult. Because they are employed by the agency contracted for this project, not by any state division or single organization, they are able to walk alongside a young person throughout it all. The assistance the Permanency Navigator provides depends on the needs of the youth. They can help the youth access behavioral health, substance abuse or disability services, find the right place to live, participate in meetings with OCS, develop a permanency plan, or provide aftercare to encourage success. The position provides, and in fact requires, adaptability in the approach to each young person’s case.

The Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is our chance to do something big to address homelessness among youth in our community, something Anchorage has never tried before.