Advocating for homeless youth: New legislation would make offering sanctuary easier
Ryan’s House for Youth is part of a homeless advocacy effort to draft legislation potentially making it easier for households to offer sanctuary to unaccompanied homeless youth.
Ryan’s House runs a host family program for unaccompanied youth as well as a drop-in center where homeless young people on Whidbey can receive food and clothing, take a rest, or receive help with tasks such as obtaining a state I.D. card.
A policy change issued by the Department of Health Services in February has put a halt to host family placements for youth under the age of 18, creating a lengthy waiting list of homeless young people awaiting the chance to participate in the program. The change has also forced many who had been residing in such host households to leave.
Madeline Lusk, 19, comes by the soup kitchen each Thursday in order to receive a warm meal. Until recently, Lusk and her best friend, Graham, a young man whom she affectionately calls her “road dog” were camped out in a tent near Coles Road.
Lusk has been without permanent housing for nearly two years. Graham has been on the streets for nearly seven.
After her parents died when she was 11 years old, Lusk moved in with her aunt in Indianapolis. The relationship was tumultuous, Lusk said, and her aunt kicked her out on her 18th birthday.Lori Cavender, executive director at Ryan’s House for Youth, was notified of Lusk’s situation and has been working to connect both Lusk and Graham with support services. Cavender is presently working to place Lusk with a host family. As of Tuesday, Cavender said Lusk is in the process of getting to know a potential host while she continues to stay with her friend.
Organizations working to giving a voice to Whidbey Island’s homeless youth
Advocates on Whidbey are working to give a voice to the voiceless by creating a task force to better address the needs of unaccompanied homeless youth.
Ryan’s House for Youth, the SPIN Cafe and homeless liaisons in Whidbey schools are cooperating in the effort to establish a task force which would bring together homeless young people from locations island-wide in a bi-monthly roundtable discussion.
Ryan’s House for Youth and Vivian Rogers-Decker, homeless liaison for the Oak Harbor School District, recently received a two-year grant from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) in the amount of $3,000 per year. The money will fund costs associated with basic needs such as transportation and food for the attending youth.