Youth Housing Stability Coalition Q&A

The Youth Housing Stability Coalition launched in 2017 with the goal of reducing homelessness and housing instability among youth ages 14-24 in the region. Katina Williams worked with partner organizations to form and manage the work of the Youth Housing Stability Coalition.

Katina Williams

How does the Youth Housing Stability Coalition fit into United Way’s work?

The eight domains identified in the comprehensive, coordinated plan to end youth housing instability match up well with United Way’s Steps to Success. The Youth Housing Stability Coalition work sits firmly in the Basic Needs Met Step, with housing stability being a foundational piece of future success for individuals and families throughout their lives. Youth and young adults who experience housing instability undoubtedly have other needs that must be met in order to put them on a path to success. The Youth Housing Stability Coalition is building a comprehensive, coordinated response to youth housing instability that builds resources and supports for young people in various stages of life.

United Way has a history of supporting the development of systems to address needs within our community. This is no different when it comes to co-convening the coalition with the Advocates for Richmond Youth (ARY), a group of directly-affected youth in our area. I think United Way is perfectly positioned to build the infrastructure of our region’s response to this challenge because of our strong work in education, health, financial well-being and career-readiness.

How does this project compare to similar efforts in our area?

Actually, there are no comparable projects addressing the issue of youth homelessness within our United Way service area. The Youth Housing Stability Coalition was created because of the work of the ARY and other youth-serving organizations who struggled with how to serve youth facing housing instability. Our current homelessness system has been unable to respond because the majority of youth were not meeting the literal definition of “homeless” and were unable to receive services as a result. The Coalition uses all federal definitions determined by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness to identify unstably housed youth.

Unfortunately, many youth and young adults are finding unsafe ways to mitigate their housing instability. In the last couple of years, homeless services in our region have created a rapid rehousing program and most recently a youth homeless task force as part of the Greater Richmond Continuum of Care to respond to the needs of youth. There are other efforts across the state working in various ways to support youth and young adults with drop-in centers and emergency shelter spots.

How will you measure success?

Our vision for the coalition is to have a system response where “community stakeholders are preventing and responding to youth housing instability in a coordinated, rapid, affirming and youth directed way.” The Youth Housing Stability Coalition has and will measure success in several different ways. The main principle of our work is to value youth voice. So, it has been our first goal to have youth voices at the forefront of decision making and planning for the coalition. Building on the groundwork of the ARY, the Coalition increased participation of directly affected youth to 25 individuals. I am excited for the coalition to release its comprehensive, coordinated response plan to youth housing instability in early December.

To me, success will be having a process in place to effectively identify youth who are experiencing housing instability and respond to the needs of the youth. Additionally, success will be programs formulated with youth input, resources and appropriate programming to serve youth.

Tell us an example of something unexpected you have learned during this project.

I really have not learned anything unexpected during this project. The energy in the room from the moment we formed the coalition led me to believe anything was possible. What I have felt is excitement, specifically about the enthusiasm of the young people to find solutions to address this issue. Empowerment within our community is the purpose of our work here at United Way. Working with young people whose lives have been directly affected by this issue and having them be an active part of the solution is a constant source of energy and inspiration. These young people have infused our planning process with fresh ideas, making it truly applicable to those we are trying to help. It has also been amazing to watch them grow and develop their voices in leadership and management.

What are your most anticipated milestones for this project in the months ahead?

After the launch of the plan in early December, we will form workgroups to tackle the goals in the different sections of the plan. We have already begun working to increase the resources and provide support to encourage the success of the project. ARY will be providing technical support for agencies of the coalition and beyond to build programming to move the plan forward.

More Information
  • Learn more about the Youth Housing Stability Coalition.
  • United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg lists homelessness as a related indicator for the Basic Needs component of its Steps to Success framework. For more information about United Way’s broader efforts to fix the core challenges preventing people from meeting their basic needs, visit our Basic Needs page.
  • Get more information about United Way’s Steps to Success.