The Youth Action Council (YAC) is made up of a group of caring youth with lived experience of homelessness and housing instability who are working together to create change in order to meet the diverse needs of youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. YAC members are motivated, have a willingness to learn, and work collaboratively with community partners. All members have opportunities to gain skills and professional development experience in areas of advocacy, group facilitation, and public speaking. Recently, two YAC members provided feedback for Journey Home’s 3-year Strategic Plan, and one of them also presented to the Board of Directors on the work being done!
The group is interested in engaging with other youth and young adults through community outreach and social media. Their sense of community has allowed them to help each other when facing their own struggles. The YAC members created a space on a social media platform where they can share their challenges, frustrations, and also successes! This has been extremely helpful for a couple of them who have been struggling to feel connected during the pandemic (and let’s face it, who hasn’t struggled at some point during these times!). They have shared job leads, access to mental health resources, and been available to listen to each other and form healthy supportive relationships during difficult times.
With an overarching goal to make sure that youth homelessness is rare, brief, and one time, the YAC members lead the work of the group, and focus on improving services in the following areas: Outreach, Diversion, Prevention, and Advocacy. Two specific examples of the work being done currently are: one, efforts to research best practices regarding outreach/accessing services; and two, providing real-time feedback for programs that can help make them more youth-friendly.
Regarding outreach/accessing services, and to address the concern that there may be youth who are slipping through the cracks and not successfully engaging in services, two YAC members are conducting a series of video interviews (safely set up to get information with the ongoing pandemic) with youth who are actively experiencing homelessness in order to find out what their experience is when calling 211, and get feedback on what their needs are, if they are being met, and how they believe the system can be improved so that it is more youth-friendly.
Real-time feedback for programs was just provided as the cold weather arrived- one of the YAC members suggested that warming centers should have youth/young adult-aged specific spaces set aside to help them feel more comfortable. Whether the warming centers do this is up to them, but the ability to make suggestions that can affect change can be an empowering experience for the YAC members!