Helping Homeless Young Men Live Successfully on Their Own

Smiling young man standing under a bridgeAt 16-years-old, Marlon* found himself homeless and facing legal troubles. He heard about the Young Adult Guidance Center (YAGC), a community agency in Atlanta that provides housing and supportive services to young men and their families. Marlon signed up for YAGC’s transitional living program for youth ages 16 to 22 and began to thrive. He re-enrolled in high school, became valedictorian of his class, earned a nursing certification, and started his own business—all before joining the military to serve his country.

Marlon’s story highlights his drive to succeed, but it also reveals what can happen when agencies offer comprehensive case management in a supportive environment, says Administrative Officer Viola Allen. As a grantee of the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Transitional Living Program, YAGC must offer both safe, stable housing and an array of services (or referrals to services) related to education, job attainment, basic life skills, and mental and physical health. Treating young people like they “are part of the family” encourages youth to develop trust that these services will help them, Allen says, and motivates them to stay engaged in the program throughout their stay. Some residents develop such a strong bond with YAGC staff that they stay in touch long past the required 90-day check-in, stopping by to share good news or just to say hello.

YAGC also shines when it comes to engaging local resources in community outreach. The agency partners with an Atlanta radio station that broadcasts information about available services and frequently visits churches and neighborhood planning meetings to spread the word. Many of the youth typically enrolled in the transitional living program come to YAGC as a result of this extensive outreach, Allen says. 

Community collaborations don’t end with outreach and referrals. YAGC recruits interns from nearby colleges and universities to assist with programs and brings in local experts to address issues ranging from substance abuse to budgeting.

These connections help residents discover the building blocks they need to live on their own and to integrate more smoothly into the community, Allen says. The results are tangible. One former resident recently earned a master’s degree, while another chose to rent a room rather than an entire apartment so he could split the cost of rent. No matter how big their accomplishments or setbacks, young people who walk through the door of the transitional living program know they always have a place to talk through their lives with someone who cares. That realization, Allen says, “makes all the difference.”

*Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.

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