Rapid Rehousing Program Places Youth in Safe Housing During Pandemic
During a year of transition and uncertainty in 2020, YES launched a new program to help place youth in safe, stable long-term housing.
Rapid Rehousing, proved essential during the Year of COVID, giving youth searching for shelter safe living conditions to quarantine, social distance and shelter-in-place.
Program Coordinator, Skyler Mann (above), talks about how the program has evolved over the past year-plus and where she wants to see it continue to evolve and impact the community moving forward.
The YES Rapid Rehousing program started just more than a year ago. How does it work? What is its intent/impact?
The Rapid Rehousing Program serves young adults between the ages of 18-24 years. Within this program, we assist program participants in locating permanent housing in Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie counties. Once we locate this housing, we provide each household enrolled in our program with up to one year of rent and utility assistance, along with ongoing case management for the duration in the program.
We have the ability to work with households of all sizes, whether that be single-adult households or households with children. All of the individuals or families that we receive referrals for in this program are either living in an emergency shelter, on the streets, in a place not meant for habitation or fleeing from domestic violence.
Therefore, the primary goal of this program is to be able to assist participants we work with to exit homelessness and move into safe and stable housing. Once they are in stable housing, we then work to identify and make progress on the goals they set that will help them overall toward being able to maintain permanent housing.
What were your expectations going into your role directing Rapid Rehousing as the Program Supervisor?
Going into this role, I knew there would be some challenges with it being a new program. But with that, I saw it is an incredibly exciting opportunity to be part of the team that implemented this program within our agency and provide several more housing openings for young adults within our community. After having worked as a case manager in Rapid Rehousing for a year now, I continue to evaluate how our program is operating and what more I can implement to best serve the individuals I work with.
How many youth have you helped/impacted so far? Can you give an example or two of success stories?
Over the past year, I have worked with 17 individuals in this program between those who are currently enrolled in our program and those who have transitioned out of the program.
There are so many different stories of success, hope and resiliency that I witness every day. One of the stories that really sticks out to me is the day that I helped one of our participants get moved into her apartment right before the end of last year. This particular youth is 18 years old, and she had been experiencing homelessness and housing instability for over a year by the time that she became officially enrolled in our program.
Over the duration of that year, she had lived in various friend’s cars and on the streets. Some nights, she was able to stay on a friend’s couch when she could find someone who had space, but it was never more than a night or two.
On the day that she was scheduled to move into her apartment, she was able to go shopping before to get some furniture and household essentials, and she was having so much fun picking out items to fill her apartment to make it feel like home. She was even able to receive a $500 gift card on the day of her move in by the apartment company as part of a move-in special that they were having, which she was then able to use to get even more items for her home.
The moment that stands out to me most from that day though was when the manager handed her the keys to her apartment after signing her lease and told her “welcome home.” Seconds after the property manager said those words to her, she immediately burst into tears of joy. It was such a wonderful moment to be there for and is just one example of the many amazing young adults I get to work with and help every day.
Does Rapid Rehousing complement YES' other residential programs?
The Rapid Rehousing program is completely separate from our Transitional Living Program and Maternity Group Home programs. YES is one of the many partner agencies of the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MACCH), who implements and oversees the Coordinated Entry System for Douglas and Sarpy counties in Nebraska and Pottawattamie County in Iowa.
Our Rapid Rehousing Program receives 100% of our program referrals from the Community Queue through the Coordinated Entry System. Where the clients in the Transitional Living Program and Maternity Group Home Programs reside in one of our various houses or apartment units that we operate, Rapid Rehousing participants locate housing options in the community that can accept the rental assistance that we offer through the program.
Just as the TLP and MGH programs provide case management while the young adults are in the program and voluntary aftercare case management after they transition out of the program, the Rapid Rehousing Program also provides the same.
What has been the greatest reward for you in your role managing the program?
One of the most rewarding parts of my role is having the opportunity to work with so many amazing young adults and support and help them find and maintain permanent housing.
My favorite days at work are when participants in the program get to sign their lease agreements and are handed the keys to their apartment. The moment these young adults get to walk into their apartment for the first time is when it really sets in that they now have a safe, stable place to come home to every day and night.
How can the community help you and the youth in this program? Donations? New relationships for housing?
Moving a program participant into their new apartment also comes with needing to fully stock their home with all the necessities. Items such as furniture, bedding, kitchen utensils, dishes, cleaning supplies, laundry supplies, and all the other essentials that an individual may need when they first move into a new home. Therefore, we are always so appreciative for any donations that we receive that we can then utilize to help furnish and fill up these young adult’s apartments.
Another important factor in our program is finding apartment communities and landlords that are willing and able to work with our program. I have been so fortunate to have made so many connections already with different landlords and apartments in the community, but I am constantly working to find more landlords in the area that we can work with. The more landlords we can connect with, the quicker we are able to move our program participants into housing while also ensuring that we find the best options for the household’s needs.
What have you heard/learned from the youth impacted by this program thus far? What have you learned about the community?
Working as a case manager in this program has vastly broadened my knowledge on various resources that are available in our community. One of my main roles as a case manager is to help participants get connected to resources that will help them on their path towards self-sufficiency.
Therefore, it is so vital for me to be well-versed on these resources available in our community so that I can help the young adults I work with established wrap-around services that will support them as they work to further goals that they are setting for themselves.