The Whole Person

by Janice Elliott February 7, 2018

Having a stable place to stay was the foundation for my recovery. If I hadn’t received that assistance, I don’t think I’d be where I am today….

Having love in my life gave me reason to live. Although I was lucky to have received assistance with housing, I didn’t feel like I had a home and a purpose until I was able to find friendship and love with others again.
–Natalie Garcia, Research Coordinator, Youth Action Hub

I love these words written by Natalie, one of the leaders at the Youth Action Hub, a youth-led center of research and advocacy that provides critical youth voice and leadership in Connecticut’s efforts to end youth homelessness. The Hub is one of our grantee partners in Connecticut.

While Natalie speaks from personal experience, I’m also seeing this growing focus on human needs beyond just housing baked into the work of other efforts to end youth homelessness. Take the groundbreaking research of another one of our grantee partners, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Chapin Hall is an independent policy research center and leader of the national Voices of Youth Count initiative. Their recent report, Missed Opportunities: Youth Homelessness in America, National Estimates, provides an unprecedented look at the scale, scope, and characteristics of youth homelessness in our country.

Chapin Hall is now taking their work on youth homelessness to a new level by launching an effort to better define what it means to end youth homelessness. They are going beyond common benchmarks of progress (e.g., fewer youth experiencing unsheltered homelessness; youth swiftly transitioning from shelter to stable housing) to measuring how youth are faring in four key areas:

  1. Stable housing
  2. Social-emotional well-being
  3. Permanent connections with others, and
  4. Education/employment

These four domains are vitally important because any gains in housing stability could be short-lived in the absence of positive outcomes in the other three.

What I find exciting about this approach is its whole person perspective. These four domains (which echo the four pillars of recovery in the behavioral health care arena: home, health, community, and purpose) very much matter to someone on the threshold of adulthood, and I suspect they are fundamentally important in sustaining us throughout our lives. They strengthen our capacity to cope with challenges, recover from trauma, get back on our feet, and go on with life with a sense of competence and hope.

As the Trust looks ahead to our work in 2018 and beyond, our commitment to advancing these four areas (which we group as Housing, Health & Support, and Income) will continue to provide a stable grounding for our work. This year, we have our sights set on:

  • Strengthening national and state efforts to ensure that rents are affordable for families and individuals with the most severe housing cost burdens
  • Catalyzing reforms in workforce development that help people who have experienced homelessness not only secure jobs but move beyond entry-level, low-wage, part-time work
  • Supporting cross-system collaborations between primary health, behavioral health, housing, and justice systems
  • Fueling the nationwide movement to end youth homelessness, and
  • Lifting up the voices of people impacted by homelessness

And in this time of great fiscal and political turmoil, we remain committed to supporting essential work to educate, communicate, and advocate for what works to prevent and end homelessness and ensure that young people like Natalie not only survive, but thrive.

 

The above photo is from More Than Homeless, a PhotoVoice project of the Youth Action Hub consisting of original photos and personal stories about what it’s like to be young, LGBTQ+, and experiencing homelessness in Connecticut. The photos will be exhibited at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, CT from February 15-28 and the Hub will host an opening reception on February 15, 4-5pm. 

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