YAKIMA, Wash. — A Way Home Washington is helping to offer young people in Yakima County tailored solutions to prevent them from becoming homeless by using its Homelessness Prevention & Diversion Fund.
“Most commonly, we see it being used for things like move-in assistance, so like, one-time rental assistance or move-in costs, application fees, but we also see really creative things with it as well,” training and diversion manager Kiki Serantes said.
Serantes said they also see the funding being used more creatively. She said in one case, they were able to pay for the tools a young person needed to fix up their uncle’s unfinished basement into a living space.
“It’s creative housing conversations that are driven by the young person saying, yes, this is what housing would work for me,” Serantes said.
Serantes said in some cases with younger kids, the solution is to provide their family with assistance to prevent them all from losing their housing or from having to split up to take advantage or different housing resources.
The Homelessness Prevention & Diversion Fund is funded through next summer. Servantes said they plan to ask lawmakers to extend that funding.
According to the latest Yakima County Point in Time Community Report, at least 670 people are experiencing homelessness across the county. Nearly a quarter of those people are 24 or younger and don’t have the same access to shelter and services as adults.
Over the past two years, the nonprofit’s funding has helped 42 young adult households in Yakima County, keeping youth ages 12 to just before 25, sheltered.
Serantes said their primary partner is Yakima Neighborhood Health Services, but organizations across the county can utilize the funding. Most of the requests have come from Rod’s House, which provides services for young adults.
Rod’s House has a permanent, eight-bed emergency home serving young adults 18 to 24 years old in Sunnyside, outreach services, an opportunity center, behavioral health services, case management and a resource center.
The organization is working on a long-term plan to open an emergency youth shelter in Yakima that would be able to serve teens ages 13 to 17 as well as young adults, but it isn’t anticipated to open until summer 2023.
In the meantime, they’ll be opening up their annual young adult extreme winter weather shelter Nov. 1, where they help put up young people ages 18 to 24 seeking a safe, warm place to stay in a local hotel. To operate that shelter, they need meal partners, volunteers and donations.
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