Blog, Project Update, Testimonial, Young Adult

Serving Sarasota’s Young Adults: Holding The Door Open

Thanks to the support of Sarasota County Health and Human Services, we were finally able to add four transitional beds for young adult males in October of 2020, totaling 17 beds for young adults. The success that we’ve seen with this project is very exciting!

For a few years now, we have operated 4 transitional beds for young adult female clients and a long-term supportive housing program (New Heights) for those young adults ready to make a longer-term commitment. However, we noticed that the gap in services specifically for young men in our community was huge.

We were serving young men in our Youth Drop-In Center that were not wanting to leave at closing hours; they wanted to be somewhere they belonged. And we wanted them to stay too! The partner organizations that we were working with to serve young adult male clients were fantastic, but no one was hosting a space dedicated just for them like we were for young women. We wanted to dig a little deeper to find out why and to see what we could do as an organization to address this issue.

Meeting the Needs

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 70% of all individuals experiencing homelessness are men and unaccompanied male youth. Before now, Sarasota County only had beds for single young adult males available at shelters mixed in with the older adult chronically homeless population.

Because women are often perceived as more vulnerable and may have children to care for, we generally see more services provided for young women experiencing homelessness. People might assume that men appearing to be able-bodied should be able to simply get a job, work hard, and solve their own housing crisis, without seeing the layers of less-visible barriers that they must first overcome.

Reaching Out

We want the doors to healing and help to be held wide open for everyone in need – regardless of age, ability, gender identity, ethnicity, race, culture, beliefs, and regardless of a person’s past.

Many of the young male clients that we serve are aging out of the foster care system, leaving dysfunctional homes at 18, or just trying to navigate the rough terrain of adulthood, alone and without sufficient preparation. This difficult journey is harder with a broken definition of masculinity expecting young men to bear the weight of their burdens alone.

We believe that if we can reach people in need of services while they are still young, then we could help flip the script for that person’s life at the very least. Imagine the impact of taking a young person off of the streets, offering a safe home, encouraging them to build upon their education, supporting them while they start new career paths, and believing in them enough so they feel confident to reach for a solid future. When love, hope, and a place to belong are added to someone’s life, the end results change people for generations to come.

Seeing Results

In October 2020, Sarasota County Health and Human Services approved the use of these 4 beds for single young adult males ages 18-24 experiencing homelessness.

Since then, we’ve been able to serve a total of 8 young men, 5 of them were still in high school. Every single one of them has at least one accomplishment to celebrate in less than 60 days, from getting and maintaining a job, to graduating or re-enrolling in school, to relocating to a more stable home.

Manuel is an 18-year-old high school senior who moved into New Heights just a few weeks ago. When he first came to Harvest House, we were able to house him right away in one of the newly available beds for young men. Because we had this space, he was able to stay in transitional housing while getting started on his goals and move into New Heights as soon as a bed became available.

“The day I moved into new heights my heart lit up. Not only do I get the privilege of having my own room, but I also get to decorate it exactly how I want it without no one telling me what to change or what not to have in it. That's such a huge deal to me, considering I've never had my own room, let alone get to decorate it like I want. I would love to accomplish many things in life, and I will! But for right now, I have to start off with what I can do to get those other goals accomplished. With that being said, one of those goals is to graduate, which I will do! I believe in myself and that's all you have to do. ‘The absence of belief guarantees failure.’
I'm glad to have met Ms. Dayna because not only does she keep me in check when I need it, but she also has given me advice and has helped me in a number of ways in just the short time I've known her. I'm glad I've had the honor to meet her. And I'm also thankful for this program because it's given me the opportunity to not have to constantly worry where I'm going sleep for the night and to keep my head up and shoulders high and that God has great plans for me! (Jeremiah 29:11)”
New Heights Client
It Takes a Village
“We have worked together to help young men realize and begin to reach for their highest potential. The more mentors, the more support teams from mental health providers, the more school counselors involved, the better. It helps send the message to youth that we are all on their team, rooting for the same thing. Many young adults do not know what it is like to have people rally behind them on the good days, the bad days, and everything in between!”
Dayna Camp
Dayna Camp
Young Adult Services Manager

Our team works hand in hand with community partners to form a network of support for every young person within reach. The Sarasota County Education liaisons, assistant principals, school resource officers, and school counselors are just a few partners that have actually brought young adults in need of services directly to our drop-in center.

We’re very proud of these young, hardworking men, and we’re ready to continue serving Sarasota’s young adults. We believe that where there’s a will, there is a way.

Cheryl Clunk

Director of Youth and Family Services

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