With support from United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg, Brookfield Foundation and Virginia Nonprofit Housing Coalition, Flagler Housing & Homeless Services has initiated a youth rapid re-housing pilot program as an extension of its successful rapid re-housing services for homeless individuals and families.  The pilot program is designed to discover and prioritize the unique needs of young adults ages 18-24 who meet the HUD definition of literal homelessness, while testing and developing best practices to address them. It is the first rapid re-housing program in Virginia specifically for single homeless young adults.  Five homeless youth have been housed to date.

An influx of youth referrals from local emergency shelters and the Richmond Homeless Point of Entry alerted Flagler staff to the need for a youth-focused program.  Flagler partnered with Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work to form Advocates for Richmond Youth, a participatory action research group led by assistant professor Alex Wagaman, PhD.

“The research conducted by Advocates for Richmond Youth clearly reflected a need for a variety of programs and services in the Richmond area to address homelessness and unstable housing among youth,” said Wagaman.  “Youth have different needs and one program won’t meet them all. There is a need for individualization and flexibility. In all of this, program development needs to be youth-informed. Young people know best how to meet the needs of young people.”

Research by Advocates for Richmond Youth also showed that homeless youth are underserved because many choose not to access shelters for safety concerns, assume they are not eligible for services, or do not seek services for fear of stigma.

“Youth have specific desires and needs, especially if they had a lack of support growing up,” said Kimberly Tucker, director of Flagler Housing & Homeless Services.  “Many want to be independent, but do not have the life experience they need to be completely self-sufficient.”

Click here to read more about the program and how it is already changing lives in an article published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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