The Homeless Network of Yakima County partnered with Rod’s House, Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, Yakima’s Bethel AME and Englewood Christian Church to open a Young Adult Extreme Winter Weather Shelter to ensure young adults ages 18-24 have a safe, warm place to sleep this winter. Make sure and see our Community Supporters page to see all those who the project possible.
Since May of this year, 67 unduplicated individuals 18-24 have been assessed for housing indicating an unmet need in the community. To gauge interest in a young adult specific shelter, and to assess need, Rod’s House surveyed the young adult population ages 18-24 - 84% indicated they would be interested in staying at a Young Adult Extreme Winter Weather Shelter. The majority of those surveyed were couch surfing or staying outdoors.
Young Adults 18-24 are either not willing or not appropriate to be housed in traditional shelter; making them the hidden homeless. Often times, young adults fall back on couch surfing to escape below freezing temperatures. The National Alliance to End Homelessness states “Many homeless youth and young adults have experienced significant trauma before and after becoming homeless and are particularly vulnerable, including victims of sexual trafficking and exploitation.” While couch surfing can protect young adults from the weather, it can often leave them more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking.
The Shelter Project started later than the usual November 15 date and did not open until December 26, 2017. Two locations were secured including Bethel AME church and Englewood Christian Church. Since this was the first year for the Bethel AME church to be a shelter, considerable effort was made to inform the neighborhood of our intentions within a five-block radius. Over 1,600 notification letters went out with contact information and an explanation of the project. One community member contacted us with their concerns, which was followed up by phone calls with the Shelter Coordinator and a representative from past Extreme Winter Weather shelters. The decision was made to begin with the Englewood Christian Church location considering they had the required fire equipment already installed. Later in the project it was discovered that expanding into a second site would require more volunteers than were recruited – however, the shelter never once turned away a young adult for being over capacity.
This was the first year a co-ed shelter was managed. This was made possible by utilizing a locking accordion door that split the original shelter room into two separate rooms – each with its own door. This was also made possible by serving the evening meal at Rod’s House and opening up the floor space to additional cots. While the church allowed for twelve cots onsite – youth feedback guided the initial set up of five cots on each side for a total of ten with two cots held in reserve should capacity dictate their use. Having the cots too close together increased the anxiety of the young adults and one of the reasons mentioned for not utilizing the larger shelters.
Another unique aspect of the shelter was the increase in numbers toward the end of the season, when shelter numbers typically dwindle. When questioned – many young adults stated they were waiting to hear from other peers about their experiences before they decided to stay at the shelter.
23 Unique individuals were served by the program: 14 men and 9 women. There has been a total of 311 bed nights provided. Total cost per bed night was $82 (Total project budget of $25,643/311 bed nights). Since this was the first year for a Young Adult Extreme Winter Weather Shelter – the initial budget of $45,000 was an estimate based on previous shelters input to cover the cost of required fire equipment, food and supplies, and coordination. Moving forward, the budget will be increased proportionately due to an earlier start date and increased capacity.
Length of Stay
To date – the community has supported this project in the following ways:
We encourage everyone to go to the Community Support page for the complete list of volunteers, sponsors, donors, contributors, and partners that made this project possible.
Homeless Network of Yakima County