Grantee Spotlight:

Impacting Youth Homelessness in Houston - The Salvation Army Young Adult Resource Center (YARC)


In May, 2015 the University of Houston released YouthCount 2.0, an effort to document and understand homelessness among youth in the Houston region.  YouthCount 2.0 has provided the community with accurate data on the prevalence and characteristics of this population locally.  The survey identified 434 homeless youth in the region, of which 25% identify as LGBTQ, 58% had been involved with a public system of care such as juvenile justice or child protective services, and 24% had attempted suicide.  A large percentage of this population has experienced traumatic events like sexual, emotional, and/or physical abuse.  Houston's population of youth experiencing homelessness is not transient; 93% were born in the United States, and 63% are native to Houston.  Rockwell Fund, Inc (RFI) applauds the University of Houston for studying this difficult to reach population, as well as the Greater Houston Community Foundation for funding the project. 

Homelessness among youth is steadily gaining more attention nationally and in Houston.  The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has set a goal of ending the problem by 2020.  USICH aims to accomplish this goal through 5 strategies:

  • Breaking down silos between programs and services that serve youth who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness by integrating or coordinating Federal data systems that collect information on youth experiencing homelessness.
  •  Pursuing and supporting research to increase understanding about the scale and nature of youth homelessness.
  • Improving the accuracy of counting youth in point-in-time counts of homelessness by publishing youth-specific methodology based on promising practices identified and tested in some communities.
  • Expanding and testing new programs and services for youth experiencing homelessness, promoting coordination and exchange of knowledge and best practices between existing programs and services, and increasing their alignment with four core outcomes.
  •  Developing approaches that serve vulnerable sub-populations of youth, including LGBTQ youth, pregnant and parenting youth, youth involved with juvenile justice and foster care systems, and survivors of sexual trafficking and exploitation.

In the Houston region activities are underway to respond better to, and prevent, this problem.  Recently, Houston was selected by the Department of Housing and Urban Development as one of two in the nation to develop a pilot program, supported by HUD, aimed at preventing homelessness among LGBTQ youth.  Over 60 youth-serving local organizations and agencies have joined this collective, now called NEST.  Similarly, the region's local Continuum of Care, the Coalition for the Homeless, hosts two workgroups related to youth experiencing homelessness.

RFI recognizes the multiple system problems that contribute to youth homelessness. Youth experiencing homelessness typically have histories of system involvement, violence and abuse, and mental health challenges.  The path to homelessness for this population is filled with opportunities to intervene and prevent the problem.  Unfortunately, barriers like limited resources, service silos, and a general lack of understanding of the needs of the population continue to persist.  Though great steps are being made locally, efforts to respond to and prevent this problem need to ramp up and continue to innovate. 

As such, RFI recently began a partnership with The Salvation Army Houston Social Services Department, specifically to support the organization's Young Adult Resource Center (YARC) (day shelter) and it's connected housing efforts for Youth.  The YARC is established to connect otherwise street-involved, homeless young adults 18-25 to housing and other mainstream supports; provide respite, emergency meals-ready-to-eat, job coaching, recovery coaching, and non-traditional educational support, tutoring, and reengagement.  Furthermore, using Housing First principles, YARC housing case managers' first priority is to connect and support young adults to gain and sustain housing.  YARC staff members are trained in Motivational Interviewing (MI) and receive ongoing coaching from MI certificated coaches.  YARC follows Trauma Informed Care principles (Safety, Trust, Choice, Collaboration, Empowerment), with core TF-CBT elements. YARC provides a secure meeting place for prepared congregate meals, social supports, leadership training, employment & education tutoring, counseling, transportation, links to mainstream services, and mentoring.  Program goals additional to food and housing include providing resources for and modeling self-sufficiency, building healthy adult relationships, engaging youth and young adults in community volunteerism, and providing navigation assistance for educational and/or employment vocational training. When family reunification is not a viable option, housing case managers will help clients navigate coordinated assessment and subsequent follow up.  


  YARC Pic2