Host Home Program Supports Holistic Health for Durham Youth

<p>Young adults in Durham and the surrounding Triangle region who are experiencing housing instability now have a place to turn for support thanks to the Host Home Program, an intervention funded by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and implemented by the LGBTQ Center of Durham.</p>

Author: Lindsay K. Saunders

July 25, 2019 – Young adults in Durham and the surrounding Triangle region who are experiencing housing instability now have a place to turn for support thanks to the Host Home Program, an intervention funded by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and implemented by the LGBTQ Center of Durham. 

Launched in June 2019, the Host Home Program is filling a gap in housing services for young adults, particularly for those who are people of color and LGBTQ.

The LGBTQ Center of Durham’s Host Home Program (HHP), modeled after the Point Source Youth Host Home intervention, serves transition-age young adults, ages 18-24, who are homeless. This is one of the LGBTQ Center’s programs that is by and for the community, providing accessible services for young folks, with a particular lens toward working with youth of color and LGBTQ youth. 

Results of the “Serving Our Youth: Service Provider Survey & Report,” by True Colors, indicate that as many as 40% of homeless youth in the U.S. are LGBTQ, and an even higher percentage are also youth of color. These young people are disproportionately impacted by housing instability or homelessness, in comparison with their cisgender (defined as a person whose gender aligns with those typically associated with the sex assigned to them at birth) and heterosexual peers.

Those most likely to need the Host Home Program’s intervention might be “couch surfing” or staying off-and-on with friends. Young adults are not necessarily having the same experience of homelessness as older adults, and that is exactly what the program is working to interrupt -- the risk for chronic homelessness. This program is also particularly responsive to those who may have been rejected by their family after coming out or whose families did not have the means to support them as they became adults. Many of these young individuals are also carrying multiple experiences of past or acute trauma, and the program is designed to respond appropriately with the right interventions.

Finding a Home

KC Buchanan, the Host Home Program Coordinator, manages host recruitment through the program’s dual-pronged approach. Buchanan facilitates the host side of the relationship between the host(s) and the young adult, while Amber Esters, the Host Home Case Manager facilitates the support of the young adult. Buchanan ensures the hosts who join the program support the program’s mantra of “it takes a village,” and that hosts share the program’s values in centering those most likely to have these experiences, namely young adults of color and trans and/or queer young adults.

“We want to see a strong, resilient, vibrant community,” said Buchanan. 

Becoming a Host

Hosts must be at least 25 years old and provide a private bedroom or, at minimum, a private space. Ideally, hosts will also possess at least basic anti-racist and intersectional identity awareness, as well as be open and affirming to those of LGBTQ experience.
To that end, hosts are identified, screened and provided tailored training and support with the goal of establishing a safe and affirming living space for young adults for up to six months on average. Hosts are offered stipends, on a sliding scale, to aid in the effort to be sure the community of individuals opening their homes is not limited to only those with the financial means to do so.

Personal Support

Esters supports each young adult in the program through comprehensive, wraparound case management. She takes great care to connect with the needs of each young person to resources in the community and guide them toward their goals. “Each client has their own unique goals in order to achieve their sense of independence,” said Esters.

Regarding the program’s focus on the mental health needs of these young people, Esters facilitates connecting them with an affirming mental health provider, a cornerstone of the program’s approach. Throughout their journey in the HHP, she facilitates as much choice as can be afforded, and priority is placed on sustaining independence. She also provides transportation to appointments, and knows that, sometimes, trust is best built by simple activities like taking clients for a haircut and processing appointments with agencies like Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Over the coming year, the program anticipates working with 10 to 15 young adults. 

Program staff each have personal understanding of the social and economic systems in place that can hinder people of color and queer individuals from getting the support they need, making the program that much more poised to facilitate this intervention. The team knows that providing and accessing this care requires cultural responsiveness to ensure affirming and supportive assistance. 

Center Community Vision 

The program is also working to build collaborative relationships with other community stakeholders for culturally responsive resource development and, in the long term, additional funding and program supports. A few goals of the program are to offer support groups and to explore developmentally-responsive financial resources to support the goal of long-term stability and independence among the young adults in the program. The program is recruiting hosts and building capacity across the community to support their long-term vision.

Center Program Director Helena Cragg emphasized that the Center is focused on reliable wraparound community supports and envisions a Durham that has the strength to prevent youth homelessness entirely. 

The LGBTQ Center of Durham is at 114 Hunt St. in Durham. The Center is open Monday to Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Host Home Program is made possible with support from the Mental Health Block grant funding of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and technical assistance provided from the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services. For more information, contact

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