For its 2017 grant, [Give] 502 selected the pilot host homes project. | Courtesy Community Foundation of Louisville
The Host Homes Pilot Project to End Youth Homelessness has secured additional funding and hired a manager who started Monday, officials said.

Two partners in the effort to fill the gap for short-term stable housing for youth, the Coalition for the Homeless and Home of the Innocents, announced recently that the project had received $13,500 from the Gheens Foundation, part of an overall $30,000 grant, and $20,000 from the Community Foundation of Louisville.

In December, the initiative was set in motion with a $20,000 seed grant from [give] 502, as Insider reported. The transitional home hosting program is modeled after Avenues for Homeless Youth in Minneapolis and Nightstop in England.

According to Natalie Harris, executive director of the Coalition for the Homeless, the pilot project will double short-term shelter options for youths and help achieve the goal of ending youth homelessness in Louisville by 2020. The launch of the project comes on the heels of a successful challenge last fall to house 100 people age 16 to 24 in 100 days.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for young adults experiencing homelessness to have a safe, supportive place to stay, and for the community to get involved in the work of addressing homelessness by volunteering to be hosts,” said Shannon Derrick, associate director of Home of the Innocent’s Aftercare Program, in a news release.

The program, which will be carried out by the Home of the Innocents, will provide homeless young adults with a stable home environment and support services while they navigate the process of finding and securing their own permanent housing or reuniting with family, organizers said.

To start the program off on the right foot, Melissa Kratzer, director of development for the Coalition for the Homeless, said in an email exchange that the manager, Elizabeth “Liza” Smith, would spend the first several weeks working on policies, procedures, training curricula and other documentation.

Smith has worked at Home of the Innocents for almost two years as Aftercare Employment Specialist, Derrick said. “Liza has been very interested in this project from the initial discussions and has a background in teaching and training,” she added. The full-time position is 32 hours a week, which could expand to 40 hours with additional funding, she said.

Once the documentation is ready, project organizers will start recruiting families to be “thoroughly vetted and trained,” Kratzer added. Soon after that, she said, they will start pairing young adults with families. “Since this is a pilot project, we don’t have an exact timeline, but we may have a better idea in a couple of weeks once the manager hits the ground on the project.”

Local families are now being recruited to participate in the pilot program, organizers said. After an extensive screening and training process, families will serve as hosts for up to three months while the young people work with a case manager on a permanent housing solution, they said.

Homeless young adults will choose which family they would like to stay with, and the program manager will help facilitate the match. If the pilot project is successful, the groups said, the program will be expanded and opened to more families in 2019.

Other organizations that created host homes programs said the startup takes nine months, but Louisville organizers say they expect to get the program going here much faster.

“We have already done extensive research and we have access to experts in the field who have not only shared their expertise, but also templates of their policies, procedures, and documentation,” Kratzer said. “We also have a list of individuals, faith communities, and organizations that have expressed interest in being a host family or recruiting them from within their networks.”

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Mickey Meece
Mickey Meece is a native of Louisville, a Kentucky Colonel and a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She worked at The New York Times for 13 years in various capacities on the business and features desk, including assistant to the editor, small business editor, weekend editor and staff editor. Mickey served as executive editor of USAA Magazine, the Money magazine for military families, and was an editor for the American Banker newspaper, where she reported on the credit card industry.