Temporary Housing For Young People, By Young People | Connecticut Public Radio
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Temporary Housing For Young People, By Young People

Jan 6, 2016
Originally published on January 8, 2016 8:49 am

Homelessness is hard enough, but being a young adult and homeless brings its own set of challenges. No longer eligible for family shelters, 18- to 24-year-olds can be targets of theft and assault by older homeless adults, experts say. In Boston, a new homeless shelter just opened — for young adults only.

The night before the shelter opens, there is a celebratory dinner in the basement of the First Parish church in Harvard Square. The space has been through a $1.3 million renovation, with funds coming from foundations, grants and donations.

It looks like an upscale youth hostel. There's bright wood paneling. Surfaces painted lime green. Twenty-two beds decorate the far wall like an elaborate tree house. This is the new location of Y2Y — a shelter for young adults only. And now, it's almost ready for business.

One thing that makes Y2Y special is the staff — every one of them is a young adult, a lot of them Harvard University students and almost all of them volunteers, such as Needham Hurst and Ian Meyer, who are staffing the lottery line the morning before the shelter opens. All seven of the people who enter the lottery get beds. They're just a handful of the hundreds of young adults in Boston who are homeless.

It's a need that Sarah Rosenkrantz and Sam Greenberg — the 23-year-old Y2Y co-founders and co-directors — are intent on addressing. "Just telling our peers that we don't believe they should be homeless, and we want to work together to fix this issue," Rosenkrantz says.

Greenberg adds that they have an obligation to ensure that all of their peers are safe, warm, welcomed and supported. Y2Y will offer other services as well.

"We have student case managers, we have volunteers who participate in legislative and public advocacy, we'll have workshops — things like financial literacy, storytelling, poetry, like public speaking," Greenberg says.

The other thing that's special about Y2Y is that at every turn, young adults who are or have been homeless have advised the shelter's planning, as part of a youth advisory board. Ayala Livny consults on programs related to homelessness.

"I think that it'd be negligent to try and create a shelter for young adults without getting the actual input of young adults who are going to be staying at the shelter," says Livny.

Such as 23-year-old Andrew Giampa, who serves on the youth advisory board.

"We've come up with pretty much all aspects around Y2Y between policies, furniture, regulations," Giampa says.

One of those policies is length of stay, which is up to 30 days. There's also a drug and alcohol policy. And rules for whether you can have a pet. And it was this board that replaced a list of rules with a list of responsibilities, to allow young people to feel ownership over the space.

But now, everyone's focused on the opening, just moments away. There are last-minute signs to post, and vegetables to chop for dinner. Finally the doors open. Twelve young people end up spending the night.

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Being homeless is hard enough, but young adults that are homeless have their own set of challenges. For one thing, they're no longer eligible for family shelters. And experts say 18 to 24-year-olds can be targets of theft and assault by older homeless adults. In Boston, a new shelter has just opened for young adults only. Reporter Ari Daniel was there.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Tomorrow we're going to open.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And we're just 24 hours away from opening our doors.

(APPLAUSE)

ARI DANIEL SHAPIRO, BYLINE: I'm at a celebratory dinner in the basement of the First Parish Church in Harvard Square. It's been through a $1.3 million renovation, with funds coming from foundations, grants and donations. The place looks like an upscale youth hostel. There's bright wood paneling, surfaces painted lime green. Twenty-two beds decorate the far wall like an elaborate tree house. This is the new location of Y2Y, a shelter for young adults only. And the next morning, it's open for business.

(SOUNDBITE OF TELEPHONE RINGING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Hi, are you calling for the lottery results?

Yep, you got a bad. We are...

DANIEL: One thing that makes Y2Y special is the staff. Every one of them is a young adult, a lot of them Harvard University students and almost all of them volunteers, like Needham Hurst and Ian Meyer who are staffing the lottery line this morning.

NEEDHAM HURST: You both won a bed.

IAN MEYER: You're number six...

HURST: Yup, three also won a bed.

MEYER: ...And you got a bed. Number seven - you have a bed.

DANIEL: All seven who enter the lottery get beds. They're just a handful of the hundreds of young adults in Boston who are homeless. It's a need that Sarah Rosenkrantz and Sam Greenberg, the 23-year-old Y2Y co-founders and co-directors are intent on addressing.

SARAH ROSENKRANTZ: Just telling our peers that we don't believe they should be homeless and we want to work together to fix this issue.

SAM GREENBERG: We have an obligation to insure that all of our peers are safe, warm, welcomed and supported.

DANIEL: So, besides being a place to sleep, Y2Y will offer other services.

GREENBERG: We have student case managers. We have volunteers who participate in legislative and public advocacy. We'll have workshops - things like financial literacy, storytelling, poetry, like, public speaking.

DANIEL: The other thing that's special about Y2Y is that at every turn, young adults who are or have been homeless have advised the shelter's planning as part of a youth advisory board. Ayala Livny, the only person I interviewed over 25, consults on programs related to homelessness.

AYALA LIVNY: I think that it'd be negligent (laughter) to try and create a shelter for young adults without getting the actual input of young adults who are going to be staying at the shelter.

DANIEL: Like 23-year-old Andrew Giampa, who serves on the youth advisory board.

ANDREW GIAMPA: We've come up with pretty much all aspects around Y2Y between policies, furniture, regulations...

DANIEL: Like length of stay, which is up to 30 days; like the drug and alcohol policy; like, whether you can have a pet. And it was this board that replaced a list of rules with a list of responsibilities to allow young people to feel ownership over this space.

But now, everyone's focused on the opening, just moments away. There's last-minute signs to post, vegetables to chop for dinner. Finally, the doors open. Twelve young people end up spending the night. Kayn, hair curly and dyed vibrant aqua is among them. Kayn's 21 and is relieved to have a place to stay. Having steered clear of other shelters these last several months while homeless, there's something about Y2Y that's special for Kayn.

KAYN: This space, at least - the way they designed it, it's like mind-blowing and beautiful and (laughter) absolutely, like, breathtaking.

DANIEL: I mean, it seems like it'd be fun to stay here.

KAYN: Oh, it does. It does. And that's what I'm saying. Like, the thought that they put into and the care of transforming a space - this whole new concept of how it means to live, even if you don't have a home, per se.

DANIEL: Just being here lifts Kayn's spirits.

KAYN: This place, it's different. It's warmth. It, like, brings me warmth - is the only way I can put it.

DANIEL: Bering surrounded by other young people gives Kayn hope that finding a way out of homelessness is a real possibility.

For NPR News, I'm Ari Daniel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.