Nevada County is facing an increasing and often hard-to-see problem – youth homelessness.
Hundreds of children and young adults are dealing with housing instability, from those couch-surfing with family members or friends to others sleeping in vehicles. Some are even sleeping outside.
Almost 350 students – about one student for every elementary and high school classroom – were experiencing homelessness in the county in 2018. The figure is likely higher, especially with the challenges created from the COVID pandemic.
Bright Futures for Youth started the SAFE (Stability, Access, Foundation and Empowerment) program in 2019, committed to finding and helping the hundreds of children and young adults faced with housing insecurity.
When the program started, SAFE’s goal was to connect with 12 young people (under 25 years old) per year, ensuring they have clothing, food, health care, counseling and other necessities.
The program has easily exceeded that figure and is helping almost 50 young people today – and has served more than 80 youth and families faced with housing instability during the past three years.
The backgrounds and challenges of the 50 in the program are unique. Just a few examples:
· Four are young parents with an infant.
· Seven youth are nonbinary.
· 10 are couch-surfing, depending on family and friends for housing, a situation that can change at any moment.
· One is living with their large family in a motel.
· 14 are recently housed.
SAFE’s primary focus is permanent housing – and one of every three youth are in stable housing.
But housing is only part of the problem. Youth experiencing homelessness are also facing numerous other issues, from needing help with life skills to ensuring access to the most basic of needs, such as applying for Cal Fresh (food), Medi-Cal (health care) and college/career technical education, creating a resume to find a job and accessing often-lost documents like a birth certificate, driver’s license or even a Social Security card.
SAFE is about addressing youth homelessness, and so much more.
SAFE doesn’t work alone. The program partners with other agencies whenever possible, from Children’s Behavioral Health to Community Beyond Violence, providing youth the tools to build a better future.
Youth experiencing homelessness are often out of sight, out of mind. But the challenges hundreds of children and young adults face with housing instability are real – and larger than anticipated.
You can learn more about SAFE and how you can help at https://bffyouth.org/safe/ or call 530-265-4311.