The Rapidian

3:11 Youth Housing develops safe, affordable housing for homeless youth

About 40% of homeless adults were also homeless as kids. How can we break the cycle?
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About NPO Showcase

NPO Showcase highlights nonprofit and government organizations and the work that they're doing in our community. The program is a feature of GRTV, a service of the Community Media Center, with producer and host Julie Way. You can catch it on GRTV on Saturdays at 8 AM and 6 PM and can view past episodes on the Grand Rapids Community Media Center website. If your nonprofit would like to be interviewed on NPO Showcase, please contact Julie Way.

It’s estimated that there are about 80 youth between the ages of 18 and 24 who are homeless on any given night in Kent County. “Youth are experts at hiding within the general population, by blending in, or they’ll be couch surfing, or staying with a significant other, so it’s very hard to track them,” says Lauren VanKeulen, Co-Director of 3:11 Youth Housing.

In early 2012, VanKeulen and her husband were running the youth group at City Life Church when they realized that about half of the youth that they were working with were homeless or experiencing a crisis of some sort. “Some of the youth came to us and asked us to start this organization to help them,” VanKeulen said.

And so 3:11 Youth Housing was born. Currently, the program houses four youth and partners with them during their transition to interdependence, the idea that we all need people to rely in order to lead a healthy, productive life.

“You used to be able to go over to your neighbor and say, ‘hey, can you watch my kids? Or can you do this?’ I haven’t experienced that in my life. We want to recreate that for people,” says Kayla Morgan, Community Liaison for 3:11.

About 40% of homeless adults were homeless as kids, and there are many reasons that youth become homeless. “There are not a lot of continuing care services for kids who age out of foster care,” says Morgan.

Homeless youth are at a greater risk for suicide attempts, mental and physical illnesses, unemployment, incarceration, and pregnancy. They’re also more likely to have experienced abuse and neglect or be working through gender or sexual identity issues. In the long run, programs like 3:11 can have a positive impact on some of these effects and begin to break the cycle of homelessness.

3:11 follows the housing first model, which means that they provide safe housing first, and then begin to address other issues as needed. They work on goal setting and life skills, and partner with other organizations to provide case management.

One of the youth who helped found 3:11 just graduated from the program and has transformed his life as a result. Within a month of moving into the house, he got a job. Since then, he has completed his GED, gotten his driver’s license, purchased a car, gotten promotions at work, and has moved into his own apartment. He now serves on the organization’s board.

Within the year, 3:11 hopes to expand to a second location in order to serve more youth. You can join their efforts by donating supplies, helping out with community meals on Sundays, or supporting plans for expansion.

Hear more of the story in GRTV’s NPO Showcase interview above, or catch it airing on GRTV and LiveWire over the next two weeks. You can also find more details on 3:11's website.

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