Nov 28, 2018
Ending Youth Homelessness
Every night, our downtown Portland shelters are home to youth ages 16-24 who have no other place to go. Youth often line up outside the door at 8:30 pm, hoping to get a bed and a meal for the night. Not everyone gets in. With a limit of 60 beds, the shelter can only accommodate 60 youth each night. During the winter months, there are an additional 10 beds. This year alone, the shelters housed and fed over 500 youth. While our shelters are running at full capacity and our street outreach workers are out every night providing warm clothing and crisis-intervention services, there are some positive shifts affecting the numbers and demographics of homeless youth in Multnomah County.
“Today we see very few youth under 18 years old which is different than 10 years ago,” says Dennis Lundberg, Director of Homeless Youth Services. The average age of youth at the shelter is 22 years. Some of the reasons for this shift, according to Lundberg, is the funding Multnomah County has invested into creating interventions within the community to prevent youth homelessness. “We have a consortium of services—school social workers, teachers, churches— who can identify youth couch surfing or living in a car. Through early intervention, they connect those youth to services that prevent them from becoming street kids” says Lundberg. In addition to county programs, our Bridge House Transitional Living and Services play an important role in preventing youth homelessness.
Created in 1987, Bridge House provides shelter and support services for 16-22 year olds who are committed to staying off the streets. Youth receive help in job searching, managing their finances and connection to health support services for a year. According to Pete Lewis, Bridge House Program Supervisor, “We have 7 youth living in Bridge House and 15 youth in the Changes program who are in the process of getting housing.” The Changes program works in conjunction with Bridge House and provides housing options to support the needs of youth 16-24 years. When youth participate in both programs, the likelihood of them achieving self-sufficiency increases significantly. “I recently housed a pregnant young mother and father who were living in a car for eight months,” says Marc Hanks, Case Manager and Family Support for the Changes Program. “I helped them find housing and they just had a baby.”
Ensuring that “the streets are not the end of the road” for homeless youth is the goal of our Homeless Youth Services. If you or a youth you know ages 16-24 needs safety from the streets or is seeking services, call 503-432-3986.
Please click here if you are interested in volunteering in our street outreach program, you have donations for our shelters, or you are interested in employment at the shelter.