Abstract: The Impact of Host Homes on Young Adults Exiting Homelessness (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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43P The Impact of Host Homes on Young Adults Exiting Homelessness

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Robin Petering, PhD, Founder, Senior Researcher, Lens Co, Los Angeles, CA
Laura Onasch-Vera, MSW, Project Specialist, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Ryan Polsky, MSW Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
One in ten young persons experiences homelessness in the United States. The experiences of homelessness among young adults is complex and there is no one-size-fits-all strategy but rather a range of strategies to address the diversity of needs. One of the strategies being used nationally is Host Homes. This program relies on an individual in a community to host a youth in need of temporary placement (up to six months) in their home. Despite the recent enthusiasm for host homes, there is little empirical research on the topic that seeks to understand the personal impact of entering a short-term host home program.

Eight youth were included in this mixed-methods pilot study from November 2017 to July 2018. There were five males and three females. Two participants identified as LGBQ+, five identified as African American, one as multiracial, and two as Latinx. Program partners were in Baltimore, MD and Venice, CA. As youth enrolled in the host home program a research associate scheduled an in-person meeting to discuss procedures of the pilot study, obtained informed consent, gathered contact information for follow up and then provided in-person support while completing the initial survey. Research staff notified a participant via text, email, or online messaging when they were eligible to complete a follow-up survey. After a participant exited their host home, research staff connected with them over the phone to do an open-ended qualitative interview.

Several themes emerged from the qualitative data that were informed by the quantitative survey data. Host homes served as a respite to participants. It was a space that young adults could relax and have a peace of mind which is important in the recovery model of housing. Host home participants reported becoming more integrated with services and more connected to program staff. Despite increased feelings of safety, participants had difficulty sleeping in their host homes. Food insecurity and stress related to finding food was reported throughout the time participants spent in their host homes. Participants expressed feeling stress and potential tension between staff, hosts and guests when there was not a clear exit plan. Some of these key takeaways informed a current host homes program happening in Los Angeles. The newly funded program has expanded host homes at 4 agencies in the Los Angeles Continuum of Care. Implications from this current study will be discussed on the broader implementation of this novel program model.