Social service agencies have long understood that when it comes to emergency housing and support services, children and adults have different needs.
But the model in Corvallis has not, until now, allowed for a third group that experts have identified as needing separate care.
As Jackson Street Youth Shelter Inc. prepares to open a house for young adults ages 18 to 20, it has forged a new partnership with another social service agency, Community Outreach Inc. The two will share resources with a focus on providing a curriculum of life skills and other transitional services specifically built to help those aged 18 to 25 to succeed as adults.
“There has been a need in our community for at least a decade for transitional living for this older age youth group,” said Ann Craig, Jackson Street’s executive director. “… Community Outreach has seen that need growing, as well, and has seen quite an increase in that age population — 18 to 25.”
Jackson Street Youth Shelter provides emergency housing and services for young people with unstable home lives or no homes at all. With rare exception, however, the help has stopped at age 18 due to state licensing requirements.
Community Outreach typically picks up where Jackson Street leaves off. The agency provides emergency shelter for adults and families, and offers an array of other services including addiction and abuse counseling and medical and dental clinics.
“We’ve been serving people over 18 for 40 years,” said Kari Whitacre, director of Community Outreach. “We just haven’t been serving them with a program designed for them. We turned to our partners at Jackson Street and asked them — they’re the experts — what a program like that would look like.”
Research backs the idea that older displaced youth have a different set of needs than adults — and it pays off to provide a separate set of supports. A 2009 analysis by Portland State University and Pacific University researchers revealed that $1 invested in support provides more than $4 in future savings associated with substance abuse treatment, incarceration and chronic adult homelessness.
An evolving memorandum of agreement has formed between Jackson Street and Community Outreach that spells out the role that each agency will take in this new program. When Jackson Street’s new transitional house near Corvallis High School opens in the coming weeks, it will have space for four youth, ages 18-20. Community Outreach has agreed to reserve eight beds in its men’s dorm and four beds in women’s dorm specifically for longer-term transitional housing for those ages 18-25.
Transitional housing residents may have outgrown the youth shelter or recently been evicted, estranged from their family or otherwise displaced.
The agencies will share responsibilities in working with residents on their short- and long-term goals, as well as teaching classes in money management, job preparation, physical health, meal preparation and other skills to live independently.
“We want to get them ready to take on the world,” Whitacre said, “so instead of just giving them a bed to stay in, we decided, collectively, we were going to offer them these classes.”
Community Outreach brings to the table addiction treatment, low- to no-cost mental health counseling and on-site medical clinics, while Jackson Street can support those completing and continuing education programs and help hook up residents with service-learning opportunities.
“I’m really looking forward to us working together because we haven’t had a lot of overlap in the past, and over this past year it’s become clear we have a lot to share with each other,” Craig said. “It’s new, but it’s clear it’s going to be a very fruitful collaboration.”