As a refugee of conflicts in West Africa, I know a few things about major life transitions. While fleeing war as a youth and later resettling in the United States, each step of the way presented both exciting opportunities and frightening pitfalls. The trauma of being uprooted from my home – separated from family, living in a refugee settlement, having to navigate adulthood with limited resources – created a perfect storm of adversity.
Imagine how my own precarious transition could have spiraled the winds of homelessness and other socioeconomic vulnerabilities in my direction, had I not received the critical support I needed. Throughout my personal experience and professional work in international economic development, human rights and housing policy, one truth has become resoundingly clear: Stable housing serves as the foundation for success in every other aspect of life.
Untangling the Complexities of Homelessness
In 2018, the Governor’s Task Force on Housing looked to understand how people end up experiencing homelessness in our region. The Task Force identified that people transitioning from systems – naming foster care and incarceration in particular – are most at risk of experiencing homelessness and housing instability.
Recent data shows that only 52 percent of Minnesota youth who age out of foster care will have stable housing on their 21st birthday, and 44 percent will have experienced incarceration. Adding to this concerning trend, 25 percent of individuals leaving the state’s correctional facilities find themselves plunged directly into homelessness.
Unfortunately, our state lacks safety nets to support people being released from incarceration to secure stable housing. People are released into the streets without support or resources, resulting in higher rates of recidivism. All of these negative transition experiences reduce these community members’ chances of getting out of poverty upon their return to the community.
A New Path Forward
Recognizing these challenges, Greater Twin Cities United Way has worked with a wide range of partners to develop Pathways Home, a region-wide initiative to disrupt the pipeline into homelessness for foster youth and adults transitioning from incarceration. Pathways Home builds on the success of previous Greater Twin Cities United Way innovation initiatives, including Career Academies, Full Lives and 80×3. Through our innovation initiatives, we tackle complex systems gaps that need deep mobilization.
The first phase of Pathways Home launches today: June 6, 2023. The first 18 months of the initiative will support a cohort of 11 organizations and partnerships to build their capacity for coordinated services that prevent homelessness for foster youth transitioning from foster care and young adults transitioning from incarceration.
What Makes Us Unique
While our model complements other housing stability models in the region, Pathways Home takes a collective action approach. We know that no organization can do this work alone. True systems solutions require intentional, cross-sector, collaboration where young people transitioning out of foster care or incarceration are met with seamless, coordinated systems of support that sees them as unique individuals with limitless potential. Pathways Home will drive this collaboration and bridge organizations, sectors and people. This model ensures that we address the problem from multiple perspectives.
Second, Pathways Home seeks to expand access to trauma sensitive and diverse responsive supports that can mitigate the impacts of trauma, improve health, and open opportunities to employment and education. Our cohort partners are set to work in partnership with young adults to provide an array of services like reconnecting youth to their families; mental health support; and providing nutritious and culturally relevant food. Further, we coach young adults toward skills development and employment opportunities to sustain their transitions.
Access to these and other individualized services are the bedrock to achieving successful transitions, helping young people become thriving community members with stable housing.
How You Can Help
Pathways Home depends on all of us. You can make an investment in this work today by making a donation to Greater Twin Cities United Way.
In the future, I look forward to sharing additional opportunities to volunteer your time and experience. Connect with Greater Twin Cities United Way on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to say in the loop about the latest news from Pathways Home.
At Greater Twin Cities United Way, we are committed to addressing complex issues no one can solve alone. Join us, and let’s do this together!