Published November 2020 in the Sacramento News and Review
Growing up isn’t easy, even under the best of circumstances. Unfortunately, not everyone gets the support and guidance they need to take on life’s adult responsibilities. For some transitional-aged youth (TAY) between the ages of 18 and 24, that steep learning curve can result in housing instability or homelessness.
According to a 2019 Sacramento County homeless population count, approximately 415 TAY — eight percent of the total population — were experiencing homelessness. Of those counted:
- 59 percent were unsheltered and sleeping outdoors;
- 41 percent were staying in a transitional housing program, a hotel/motel or vehicle;
- 42 percent were experiencing long-term continuous homelessness lasting over a year.
“There are so many different milestones that occur during that time frame and a lot of youth may not have the healthiest support system or they might not have any at all. That presents a great challenge in understanding how to navigate those new worlds they’re entering at that age,” says Angel Uhercik, Homeless Services Program Planner with the Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance. “That’s where the guidance from our case managers and our Prevention and Intervention specialists is so key in helping them be successful.”
Sacramento County’s Prevention and Intervention Program offers housing and a hand up. Partnering with Lutheran Social Services, Waking the Village, Wind Youth Services and the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, they connect clients with housing, short-term financial assistance and services to help youth to navigate resources, including employment, education and anything else clients may need.
“The partners are really well resourced to bridge the access from Prevention and Intervention assistance to a lot of different groups in our community,” Uhercik says.
Last year, Chardonnay Blakes, 24, a new mother and college student, found herself homeless. While she was able to couch surf with family, it wasn’t sustainable.
“The apartment was way too small, it was a one-bedroom,” she remembers. “My brother also takes care of his little brother who is in high school so I had to sleep on the couch with my son.”
She reached out to Lutheran Social Services (LSS) of Northern California for help. Fortunately, they were able to find her an apartment and connected her with County services. She was able to qualify for a housing voucher. Blakes says she’s not only grateful for her new home but for the welcoming and nonjudgmental help she received.
“I’m going to school and I’m in housing and I feel like I’ve come a long way in a short amount of time,” she says. “I’ve had ups and downs and I’m glad that I’m not struggling with my child. They made it easier for me and they eased my worries of being a new parent and doing it by myself.”
Transitional Aged Youth that need help can contact:
- Lutheran Social Services (LSS) of Northern California
- Waking the Village
- Wind Youth Services
- Sacramento LGBT Community Center
Helping Youth – Partner Spotlight
Deisy Madrigal, Prevention and Intervention coordinator with Lutheran Social Services (LSS) of Northern California, answers questions about the program:
How do you help clients?
- We tend to take a very individualized approach. The Prevention and Intervention Program itself is a collaboration between four agencies. Because we’re a collaborative, we have the ability to leverage our collective resources and knowledge to work toward the best-fit services for youth.
What are some of the biggest challenges your clients face?
- Obviously, the high rent prices that we have here make it nearly impossible for someone who’s just starting out in a minimum wage job to even afford an apartment. Even if they’re able to get a job, they’re having a hard time securing housing because of the large amount of rent they’re being required to pay.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
- I do love the prevention aspect the most because I feel like it’s important to be able to stabilize someone’s housing whenever the circumstances allow for it because it minimizes the trauma.