“What does SRO mean?”
We get this question a lot. SRO stands for Single Room Occupancy and is named for the HUD program and the fact that it houses multiple dwelling units. Each floor has single dorm-style rooms with common areas like the kitchen and living room.
In January, the program at the SRO changed. In partnership with Home of the Innocents, we began providing transitional housing to homeless youths aged 18–24. With the change in programs, we thought it was a good time to change the name of the building.
The SRO is now called Waypoint House. It is a fitting name for a program designed to be a step in the journey of a young person who’s experienced homelessness.
About the Program
In 2016, led by The Coalition for the Homeless, a group of providers, advocates, and formerly homeless young adults sat down to try and understand youth homelessness and began work on a plan to address it. This plan was ultimately approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In July 2018, Louisville was one of 11 communities awarded a grant for the Youth Homeless Demonstration Project (YHDP).
Fast forward to June 2019 and Home of the Innocents, in partnership with St. Vincent de Paul Louisville, became one of six local agencies selected for funding from the YHDP grant. The funding supports transitional housing for 24 homeless youth and young adults at Waypoint House and case management provided by Home of the Innocents. Rapid re-housing assistance is also provided as they transition to permanent housing.
How We’re Helping
According to the Louisville Continuum of Care, in 2019, 909 youth in Louisville identified as homeless. Of that 909, 10% were pregnant or parenting, and a similar number were fleeing domestic violence.
In the past, the programs available to these young adults were short-term services, unless they were in a housing program. Housing is a must if we’re to improve their chances of long-term success.
Our involvement in the YHDP is to provide safety and stability while these young people work with their case manager to find jobs, enroll in school, or cope with substance abuse issues. Ideally, someone in the program will be with us for about 90 days and then move on to their own apartment. Like so many other things, the shutdown to curb the coronavirus’s spread slowed the move out process. “Landlords were not showing properties,” said Quentin Childers, or Q, as we call him. Q is the program manager at Waypoint House.
“Due to the corona, it was a challenge. We only had one move out (during the shutdown), and they got permanent supportive housing, which was amazing. This couple had been homeless for years. I was actually their case manager at another agency, two or three years ago, and they were on the streets then. And now they’ve obtained permanent supportive housing together and were the first to move out.”
“A few weeks later, when things started to reopen, clients finally started to get housed, so it’s been a much faster process. There have been five other move-outs with more expected to move out soon.”
It goes without saying that stable housing is only one of the challenges this age group faces. We take for granted what we learn as children and young adults. Some of the most fundamental skills are entirely foreign to kids that have been living on the streets for years. Living and getting along with others, self-care, and meal preparation are just a few. “They’re happy to be housed, but they’re not happy with each other because they’re young. They don’t have the appropriate social skills, so I’ve had to teach them a lot of social skills,” Q said.
Q is enlisting others to help too. “I reached out to Angela Leavell, the program manager at the Open Hand Kitchen, about cooking classes. Local organizations have reached out and offered help to teach other life skills and take them on field trips.”
Addiction issues are a common concern too. 35% of the 909 homeless youth identified in Louisville reported drug and alcohol abuse. Q said, “We’re working with a young man to reduce his substance abuse. What he would do is go to work for a temp agency and then spend the money on drugs. Then he doesn’t have any money to spend on hygiene products like shampoo. I made a deal with him that the next time he comes to me, he must have a bottle of conditioner, a bottle of shampoo, and a bottle of body wash—big bottles. We shook on it to make sure he has the supplies to take care of himself and worry about the drugs later. We’re trying to cut down his usage and make sure he’s clean and presentable to be able to get a job. An actual permanent job. We’re working on things like that with a lot of clients.”
This work is hard, but sometimes it’s as simple as showing these young people that we care about them. Q adds, “He’s made a big turnaround from when he came in. I tell him all the time I’m proud of him. I think that’s important to say when you talk to these young adults. I think it feels good to them to know that somebody’s proud of them, taking the time to check on them and make sure they’re doing alright and progressing as a person. I think they appreciate things like that.”Photo by Jesús Rodríguez on Unsplash