Hosts sought to give homeless teens lodging for Cocoon House Connections program
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — The Connections Host Home Program is an effort launched by Cocoon House to keep teens in their communities through volunteer hosting families in their area.
The initiative seeks to place at-risk youth, ages 12-17, with hosts in their community for up to 21 days. Extensions can be made on a case-by-case basis.
There are many ways in which a teen could find themselves homeless. Their parents may experience job loss, have a chemical dependency problem or is abusive and the child leaves. Perhaps the teen was banished by their parents for being LGBTQ+.
Unfortunately, they don’t only lose their home, but their school, neighborhood, and possibly contact with their friends and faith organizations.
Time and communication can heal wounds and reunite most families. For some teens, reconciliation may not be possible and they will need long-term housing.
How Connections Host Home Program helps
Nancy LaJambe, the program’s coordinator, explained: “We want to keep the youth in their communities and schools and close to their support structures.”
LaJambe explains that Connections is a non-religious program that is separate from the state foster care system with a robust support structure and special attention put on the teen’s placement needs. Both are important matters for LGBTQ+ teens who, according to a 2017 Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago study, are 120% more likely to be homeless than their heterosexual counterparts.
The foundation of any community effort is volunteers who are willing to give their time. Currently, Cocoon House is reaching out to those willing to host an at-risk teen.
After passing a background check and a site safety inspection, host candidates receive 16 hours of training on subjects such as:
• How youth find themselves in a position of facing homelessness
• The stages of homelessness
• Challenging biases, perceptions, and beliefs
• Assessing your home culture
• How host homes help children in this position
• Expectations for the host home and the youth
Connections gives 24/7 support to hosts and teens with:
• A Connections case manager works 1-on-1 with them to provide support and help them identify needs and goals. The case manager is involved from the beginning to help ensure a successful host homestay.
• The program coordinator works with the host home to provide answers and support.
• A $150 stipend to help offset expenses, if needed. Connections can help the youth with their basic needs.
Cocoon House finds the youth in need through schools, families, other organizations as well as the youth seeking them out. But right now, placement is delayed. LaJambe explains, “We’re waiting to get some host homes online before connecting to youth about the Connections Program. Right now, we’re using our normal channels to help them find options, such as our shelter in Monroe.”
With possible combinations of vaccinated and unvaccinated hosts and guests, COVID is a valid concern.
“We talk to the hosts and the teens and find out their comfort levels. Also, we provide PPE for homes that need it,” LaJambe said.
Children ages 12-17 years old are cleared to receive a COVID vaccine. However, per Washington’s Age of Majority, parental consent is required for anyone under 18 to receive a vaccination. Connections can assist teens and hosts with the process.
During the pandemic, many heroes have emerged; doctors, nurses, even food service and retail workers have risked their health to keep society running. A volunteer host can be a hero as we recover.
As Kit Topaz, Associate Director of Development for Cocoon House, put it, “You could be the one person who lets them know they are supported.”
For more information on how to be a host, call 425-737-5419, email email@example.com, or go to www.cocoonhouse.org/hosthomes
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