Avenues for Youth Looks for Host Homes for LGBTQ Teens
A Minneapolis nonprofit that serves the northwest metro is asking community members to open their homes to LGBTQI+ youth experiencing homelessness. Avenues for Youth’s ConneQT Program provides outside-the-system housing for LGBTQI+ youth through host homes.
The goal of the program is to provide culturally responsive housing within a youth’s own community. Youth live with community members from one week to one year, depending on their needs. Ninety percent of youth move into stable housing after staying with a host.
At 18 years old, Rosie Benser packed up her bags and left home. Although she hadn’t finished high school yet she knew she needed a stable place to live.
“Where I lived, it was unstable and not conducive to my growth or quality of life as an individual,” said Benser.
Benser eventually met Mike and John through the ConneQt Program and for the first time in a long time she experienced what it was like to be a part of a healthy family.
“When I lived with them we did family dinners once a week. We shared movies that I liked and they liked. We would do activities together,” Benser explained.
Ryan Berg, the ConneQT Program Manager said many hosts in previous years have been from the northwest metro. He explained that every night in Minnesota, 6,000 youth experience homelessness and a large number identity as LGBTQI+.
“A lot of these young folks were identifying discrimination, violence, based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” Berg said. ““Among LGBTQI+ community, the most dominant narrative is family rejection. That’s a real and painful reality for some young folks but it’s not the whole story.”
Impacts of Host Homes
Like many participants, Benser said she wouldn’t be where she is today without the program. Benser considers Mike and John her family and sees them quite often.
“Having a stable home and two caring adults in my life, I was able to graduate high school, enroll in college and stabilize my mental health. I was able to work on goals for myself that I didn’t know I had yet,” she said.
Now Benser is a ConneQT Youth Advocate and Engagement Specialist and is currently working on her PhD.
Become a Host Home
There are many unknowns when it comes to hosting and building community with youth. It requires trust, hope, vulnerability, commitment, communication, healthy boundaries, and flexibility. You can qualify to become a host by meeting the following criteria:
- Have an extra bedroom or space for the youth
- Be at least 25 years old
- Identify as LGBTQI+ or an ally (our program supports LGBTQI+ youth)
- Live within one hour driving distance from downtown Minneapolis, and have lived near the Twin Cities for a least one year
- Have renter/homeowner’s insurance
- Have a commitment to anti-racism, social justice and equity; be committed to continually working on how power and privilege shows up in your own life